Live Review & Photos: The Shins and Washed Out at the Open Air Theatre, September 30, 2012

Photos by Sylvia Borgo

For 90 minutes at San Diego State University’s Open Air Theater, a decade’s worth of fans gathered for a rejoicing experience of musical memories old and new. This is what The Shins do best at shows: make it one big family reunion, great for catching up.

The Shins, fronted by James Mercer, have released four critically-acclaimed albums in eleven years, which have included such indie rock hits as, “Caring is Creepy,” “Phantom Limb,” “New Slang,” and more recently, “Simple Song,” from the band’s 2012 release, Port of Morrow. The Shins’ set in San Diego reflected all four albums and even a few unreleased/new songs.

Electronic artist Ernest Greene, better known as Washed Out, began the night in a surprising — but well-received — pairing. With a large fan base in tow, Greene played favorites like “Eyes Be Closed” and “Feel It All Around” with a colorful display of lights and a professional band. With the setting sun as the backdrop, Washed Out’s set was a transforming experience.

The Shins took the beautifully decorated stage shortly after twilight. The stage was designed as if it were an illustration from a quirky children’s novel — very Where the Wild Things Are. Mercer and company wasted no time breaking into the songs that have earned them such a huge audience: “Caring is Creepy” sounded just as I imagined it would.

The band shuffled right along, leaving us no chance to regain our bearing, but winning us over with “Australia” and “Simple Song” back-to-back. One of the biggest highlights of the night included the anthemic “It’s Only Life.” It awoke the emotional beast inside everyone in attendance.

The Shins played their set as if they aimed to please. Bottom line: they know how to create a setlist that doesn’t leave the audience checking their watches (or cell phones). Boredom was nowhere to be found at the Open Air Theatre, even with 19 songs jam-packed into a nearly two-hour set.

The encore of the night included a trio of lesser-known songs, yet all were well received — especially “Fall of ’82,” which Mercer dedicated to his much-adored older sister. For those who’ve had the chance to experience The Shins live numerous times over the years — or for those fans who were there for the first time — it was a beautiful night of music.

Photos – the Shins and Washed Out at the Open Air Theatre

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