Concert Review | The Shins + The Antlers + Deep Sea Diver at The Pageant in Saint Louis

Photo by Jason Gonulsen

I know that things can really get rough
when you go it alone

A part of me has always really wanted to love The Shins, but perhaps only in small doses. Because when the band led by James Mercer is on, they are fabulous, providing hooks and melodies that you shouldn’t deny. Other times, Mercer’s imagination loses me; I can’t fully connect to his quirks, or his aim completely misses me, instead hitting a much larger audience. Such is life, I guess. And such is live music.

To say that The Shins were utterly glowing and amazing during the majority of their performance last night would be accurate. Many times in just the past few weeks I had thought quietly to myself if bands even cared about immediately catching their audience’s attention. I’ve seen too many shows in the past year where things took a little too long to get rolling, like water sitting still instead of wanting to boil as fast as it could. And yes, I am a patient person (unless I’m hungry, but that’s for another blog).

So, I am proud to report that a funny thing happened last night: The Shins wasted little time to rip open the glory of their best work. And yes, it exploded, first with “Phantom Limb,” complete with a brief “Pam Berry” to light its spark — a flame that would keep reaching for ultimate satisfaction.

“Caring Is Creepy” followed, and its first notes were carried by screams of girls (and more than a few dudes) who probably own Garden State on Blu-Ray, or at least have it queued or starred on Netflix. Can’t really blame them, though. If the song were a drug, it would be banned in every state except Nevada, where casinos would take bets on its effects.

Photo by Jason Gonulsen

James Mercer knows this, and that’s why he’s a rocker who wastes no time. When you have a song as good as “Caring Is Creepy,” you don’t hold its fix in your pocket; you give the people what they want. Besides, it perfectly set up “Simple Song,” an instant Shins classic from the recently released Port Of Morrow. “I made a fumbling play for your heart,” Mercer sang.

There would be little fumbling on this night, even if the set occasionally stalled after the performance of “Australia.” Granted, we were just hit hard by a perfectly-executed stroke of genius, so perhaps my heart was in the wrong place to take in much more. By the time “New Slang” was played, my thoughts were still lost in the past, even if “Sleeping Lessons” did wake me up just a bit.

Too late, though, James Mercer. You played your cards early and well, and I salute you for doing just that.

Before the onslaught, though, was an entirely different story. The Antlers gave us around six songs of creative freedom that efficiently used space to reveal themselves. They also need one’s full attention, which they didn’t get, and that’s too bad. People talked through “I Don’t Want Love” and the set-closing “Putting The Dog To Sleep,” two songs that should be on everyone’s iPod. But, I fully understand: we all don’t process music in the same way. Stupid brains.

The first opener, Deep Sea Diver, led by The Shins’ guitarist Jessica Dobson, suffered much of the same fate, but make no mistake about it: their songs hold weight, and also deserve to be appreciated, especially “NWO,” which is quickly becoming one of my favorite tunes of 2012. Dobson is a confident leader — one who can sing and one who has stage presence to hold a room all by herself.

Again, listening is always key. Otherwise, as James Mercer sings on “Phantom Limb,” “there’s no connection.

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