The Shins at Chicago Theater, Illinois, USA on 8.9.2022 with Joseph supporting
On holiday in the USA and all eyes for a band to see while in Chicago. The Shins were there, on a plate, walking distance from our hotel and tickets left. No, I hadn’t heard of them despite their 25-year history but a few plays of the album they were touring and we thought let’s do this (on the trip with wife Sally).
The venue is a gem. We popped down earlier to the box office to avoid app faffing or misunderstandings. It’s just south of the Chicago River and a few blocks west of Michigan Avenue, very near The Loop, that quirky raised metro system. A noisy iron mess, but quirky. A pre-gig pint (or 16oz) sat outside the Elephant and Castle looking up at it.
A 3,600 capacity all seated theatre with a large upstairs balcony (which I think was closed for tonight); plush seats; beautiful ceilings and lighting; built in 1921 and restored in 1986.
The bars are virtually queue-less with rapid can sales of a range of craft ales and the staff were all enthusiastic and friendly – so welcoming. A well behaved crowd in tonight.
Being a US city there are metal detectors on the way in and a clear bag policy and maximum bag size to minimise searching – I left my pocket camera behind just in case. No masks needed and any Covid signage seemed historic and few wore masks. The no cameras, no phones or videos warning seemed half-hearted and the crowd was littered with people grabbing memories with their phones – I stood by a pillar and joined in once I realised I wouldn’t be tasered or ejected.
Tonight’s Support: Joseph
Joseph? An odd name for two twins and their sister playing folk-pop. They are from a town called Joseph in the State of Oregon, and the name is also in respect to their Grandad Jo. Oh. Bad name. Thought they might play some Carpenters.
The main singer-songwriter of the three is Natalie Closner Schepman who plays guitar on-stage and the Closner twins add vocal harmony and on-stage distraction. All very light with a few covers thrown in – a pleasant intro to the evening.
Also now based in Oregon, The Shins were originally formed in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1996. James Mercer is the main man and the only consistent member in the band. They get an indie rock label but it seems they have had a history of adapting sound and playing different styles over the years. The term ‘pop project’ has been applied and I get that seeing them here tonight.
You can hear Beatles-like pop simplicity and then a few songs later be lost in a haze of dry ice and white lights in some sort of Genesis-like prog rock experience. The lighting was really effective – simple but atmospheric.
When the band came on I was quite surprised, given the laid back reception for the support band, as the whole seated floor of the auditorium got to their feet. I was pretty knackered from pacing the streets of Chicago so I have to admit I was mildly irritated – it was all good though.
With the tour being a ’21st Birthday Tour’ for the Oh, Inverted World album it gave a chance for rapid pre-gig familiarisation. Spotify to the rescue with the added help of their top five most listened to. A more familiar tune that appeared, surprisingly, was Rod Stewart’s Do You Think I’m Sexy… bit of a head scratch there.
The support trio Joseph popped out to join in on five or so songs – they must be friends eh.
I managed to grab a video of one of the later songs not from the featured album: Mine’s Not a High Horse’ (link to my YouTube channel). That was followed by Simple Song which is one of their instantly enjoyable numbers.
The last song, Sleeping Lessons, had a familiar inclusion if a bit of Tom Petty.
A worthwhile evening out on the town and all hassle free. Maybe I felt a bit of an imposter, seeing the crowd lap up this performance largely consisting of songs over 20 years old, which I’ve only heard in the last 48 hours.