Live Review: The Shins, Husky

3 August 2012 | 9:48 am | Cassandra Fumi

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“Could… I possibly… scab a cigarette?” (Awkward smile.) “Sure! Are you heading to The Shins?” “Umm yeah…” “I'm so excited,” she says between drags. With this shared sentiment we double-time it to Festival Hall. Support act Husky's lead singer Husky Gawenda is sharing that the first gig he ever saw was at Festival Hall. Cousins and bandmates Gawenda and Gideon Preiss (keys/vocals) are playful on stage – the set focuses on the boys' new album, Forever So. Being captivated by the bearded indie babes certainly isn't a challenge.

The in-between music is like a musical tiki tour or listening to one of Thomas-John's mash-ups from Girls. It's a relief when the lights drop.

The Shins begin with Caring Is Creepy from Oh, Inverted World, their adored debut album. Frontman James Mercer seems to lack energy initially (jet-lag?), and the band surrounding Mercer has changed dramatically. As expected there is no crowd surfing on this Monday evening, just punters with their eyes closed swaying, processing, reminiscing and possibly trying to decode some of the songs, as most sound very different to the original recordings. It's as if Mercer is parodying himself. A beanie-wearing boy mid-centre has his iPhone glued to his palm as he punctuates the last of pretty much all of Mercer's lyrics (his diction is incredible). Noticeably, when Mercer starts playing 40 Mark Strasse off the new record, Port Of Morrow, the beanie bandit aggressively claps in the same way a footy fan does when their team scores a point… he's unimpressed.

That new album, Port Of Morrow, is far more lush than their earlier music. Jessica Dobson (guitar/vocals), Richard Swift (keyboard/vocals) and Mercer have varied and lush harmonies that elevate most tracks. The band's banter is similar to eavesdropping on a group of mates drinking. It's a known fact that The Shins love Australia (see Australia on Wincing The Night Away ). Drummer Joe Plummer says, “I want to move to Melbourne nowish, I'd live in St Kilda,” his comment delighting the crowd. New Slang is noticeably softer than the rest of the set; as Natalie Portman says in Garden State, “this song will change your life”, and tonight it kind of does. As a crowd we have only two lighters and hundreds of iPhones yet we share this moment, swaying with personal light sources.

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For the encore Mercer emerges solo, to do a rendition of September from the new record, and he humbly thanks us for coming out.