Live - The Shins Pack The House Of Blues In Chicago

Did I mention it was packed? When I walked in (post waiting in line outside because there was a single security guard with a wand diligently checking everyone), the House Of Blues was completely full. I was even a bit early and thought I'd have no trouble finding a nice spot to catch the show. That was not the case at all. Bodies were packed into the medium-sized venue so tight that I'm not sure how anyone possibly got in after me. It was an all-ages show, so I was anticipating a bunch of skinny indie rock kids to make up the majority of the crowd. I was wrong again. It was a much older audience than anticipated, with an average age of about 25-27. After picking up a "keg can" of Heineken and squeezing my way into a spot beside the spotlight operator on the second floor, I was ready for the festivities to begin.

The curtain raised on The Shins (the HOB rules), and the full house screamed with anticipation. One funny character yelled out, "YEA! Do it! FUCKING DO IT" before the band launched into their first tune. The set was split almost 50/50 between songs from the band's first album, Oh, Inverted World, and their second, most recent offering, Chutes Too Narrow (both Sub Pop releases). They actually went three songs deep before deciding to play a new song. That song was "Kissing The Lipless," the new album's opening track.

Keyboardist Marty Crandall was positioned front and center on the stage, with group mastermind James Mercer placed off to stage right. Crandall did most of the talking over the course of the 75-minute set, making jokes about his shoe coming untied and speaking in a mocking ghetto-fabulous accent at times. Mercer didn't say much, though he did introduce a couple of songs.

While the band's last record had some great songs, especially "New Slang," The Shins have really taken it to the next level with Chutes Too Narrow. From start to finish, it is one of the best albums I've heard all year. Perhaps that's why it had the highest first week sales of any release in the history of Sub Pop. There's really something special going on out there in Seattle. I guess it's all the coffee they drink. Thanks to Susan @ Sub Pop for the tix.

Live - The Shins Pack The House Of Blues In Chicago