The Shins Bring ‘Oh, Inverted World’ Anniversary Celebration Tour to a Close in Portland, OR (SHOW REVIEW)

The world was a different place twenty years ago and it was still possible that a more or less unknown indie rock band from the Pacific Northwest could drop an album that would become part of the cultural lexicon for the next decade. Such was the case when The Shins released their debut album Oh, Inverted World in 2001. Though the album caught the ears of critics and helped usher in a new wave of indie rock, it wasn’t until it was prominently featured on the soundtrack for Garden State in 2004 that The Shins promptly blew up. With the cult following of that movie and subsequent success of James Mercer and co., The Shins carried on with their pop-inflected indie rock. Now, much to the dismay of the thirty-somethings who still feel young, the band has been celebrating that album’s twenty-first anniversary on their current tour. On Thursday, September 14th, The Shins returned to their home base of Portland, Oregon to bring that tour to a close with the first of two shows in the historic Pioneer Square.

There has always been an elegant beauty to Oh Inverted World, and twenty years of age has only allowed fans to appreciate its quiet pop power even more. Backed by band members adorned in all white, Mercer conveyed a mellow and humble appreciation for the album throughout the set. While most songs were played verbatim from the record, the occasional flutter of guitar soloing from Mark Watrous or layered synths from Patti King added extra texture in the live setting. As one might expect – and partially due to their presence in mainstream pop culture – songs like “Caring is Creepy,” “Know Your Onion!,” and “New Slang” received the most enthusiastic reaction from the crowd. The presence of Joseph adding three extra voices elevated the harmonies in some songs to an almost choir-like level, adding a sense of folk delicacy to “Your Algebra” and “The Past and Pending.”

Oh, Inverted World is a relatively short album and the band moved through its songs in less than forty-five minutes. With the album complete, they shifted gears into other eras of The Shins with a focus on the band’s other popular and often more energetic material. The timelessly infectious rocker “Phantom Limb” was a highlight, followed by the bouncy pop goodness of “Australia” and the feisty groove of “Turn a Square.” The synth-driven sound of “Mine’s Not a High Horse” would give way to another highlight, the triumphant “Simple Song” with its soaring psychedelia and catchy chorus. The band would just about hit the ninety-minute mark with an encore of the moody and mariachi-esque “The Fear” before closing on a high with a version of “Sleeping Lessons” complete with part of Tom Petty’s “American Girl” seamlessly sandwiched into the middle. Though it’s been more than five years since The Shins have released a new album, taking their fans through Oh, Inverted World and songs from their other albums proved to be a welcome dose of nostalgia in Portland on Thursday.

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