Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Live Review: The Shins at the Palladium

In Band / Not In Band / In Band / Not In Band

Let me start this quasi-review by saying that I think James Mercer is one of the best lyricists working right now. However, as a live band, the Shins have always disappointed me.

Here it is only Wednesday and seeing their show on Sunday is already a faint memory, but let me try….

A friend I hadn’t seen in a while offered up a last minute ticket to the show. Since I hadn’t been to the new Palladium and I was curious about the new lineup, I figured what the hell.

The first thing worth mentioning is the physical tickets. They were enormous; I’m talking the size of a regular envelope. You couldn’t fold them on the seam and fit them in your wallet. I shoved mine in my back pocket and it stuck out a good five inches. It was a complete waste of paper.

Once inside, I headed to the bar and bought two small beers for $16. Pretty steep when you’re used to the $3.50 ($2.50 on Mondays) High Life at Spaceland. They’ve got to pay the bands somehow, right? I guess the $43 ticket price (plus $7 service charge) just isn’t enough. The venue sitting dark most nights probably doesn’t help keep the costs down either.

Our gigantic tickets said “GA – Floor” so we walked towards the floor. A security guard stopped us and said that we needed wristbands to get on the floor. After a brief dialogue we learned that they’re distributed on a first-come, first-served basis (although I’m still not exactly sure where). Bummer. We decided to check it out from the balcony.

The balcony was already pretty packed, so we went way to the side. We were so far to the side that we were standing behind the band. Once the Shins started, it didn’t take long to realize that the sound sucked from that angle. We moved more central to see if it would get any better. It didn’t. It got louder, but I couldn’t understand a word of Mercer’s lyrics. I could understand about 75% of the (limited) between song banter.

As Pitchfork reported, keyboard player Marty Crandall (the one guy with a personality in the band) and drummer Jesse Sandoval are no longer a part of the band. According to Mercer, their departure was “an aesthetic decision.” I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant by that, but I was curious to find out.

Turns out that “aesthetic decision” must have a little something to do with playing Beach Boys and Neil Young covers and a lot to do with stretching out and jamming on (previously) near-perfect two-and-a-half to three minute pop songs. The decision to cover “Helpless” was a little predictable since I’d watched Mercer jump up on the Echo’s stage last February to perform the song with the Fruit Bats. The band broke out a few new songs too. I don’t remember any specifics, but I do remember really liking one new song, being really bored by one of them and thinking one of them was OK.

It takes a lot of audacity to expect 4,000 of your fans to pay $50 to see you try out a new lineup when your new album isn’t coming out for another eight months. Are the Shins really at that level? Their fans (at least this one) would have walked away with a more favorable impression had it been a cheaper ticket (and I didn’t even pay for my ticket) at a smaller venue.

Two more notes about the “new” Palladium. We moved over and stood in front of the soundboard to see if the sound was any better over there. It wasn’t. I tried to buy a beer at 10:00 PM and the bar was already closed.

I've still got high hopes that the next record is good....


aaron said...


you need to write more reviews. between this one and the yeasayer review a while back you're nailin' it!

scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
scott said...

That's a total bummer. Sounds like the new Palladium is no different from the old one. I'm gonna miss Crandall big time. I actually used to look forward to his bantering and jokes.

Biz said...

If I wrote a review of the show, it would've looked almost exactly like yours, but with more emphasis on the Palladium's Wiltern-like first come/first serve wrist band thing.

I took the Red Line to the venue to avoid paying for parking since the tickets were already steep. Since I didn't drive, I had a few drinks at home and arrived at the venue only to be denied access to the g/a floor with my g/a ticket since I did not have a wristband. Not so fresh.

I've experienced more memorable shows sitting on the benches at the Hollywood Bowl.

IvanDashSmith said...

That's too bad about the show. I've seen them twice, once in 02 opening for Mercury Rev at the El Rey (It was a pretty good show, all Oh Inverted World stuff, but half of the amps weren't even working for the first of half their set) and again in 04 at the Warfield in SF.

The Warfield show was pretty good, and I really thought their live sound was drastically "heavier" than the album versions, so I was really happy with the show for the most part. Though, when I first saw them they had a dedicated bassist, so for this show Marty had to play bass wasn't able to hit more keyboard stuff on the Chutes Too Narrow stuff and the songs sounded flat at times.

But in both shows they were a lot of fun and Marty had a lot of stage presence and always made the audience laugh. Once I found out him and the drummer left, it didn't feel the same anymore.

As for the Palladium, I just saw Decemberists last night, and stood back near the sound board. The floor was already full and standing at the top of the steps we could see over the crowd heads. It also didn't look like anyone on the floor was getting their wrists checked, so not sure if that was a one time thing or not. Also didn't buy beer, everyone said it was expensive and watered down all over the net. Too bad.

one-liner girl said...

I agree with others re: Marty - saw the band 3 times (all in Sydney) and he was always animated, excitable and funny. That makes a difference for the audience! I don't know what grand plans Mr Mercer has in store, but I hope the new line-up has some interesting live characters cos let's face it, whilst James is a great talent, he ain't famous for his on stage banter or memorable live antics. Marty, we'll miss you and your keyboard!

**Our neighbourhood was so tough, you could walk ten blocks without leaving the scene of the crime.**

Rolena-san, the one-liner girl ;)