It's been four long years since The Shins graced a London stage - their new album 'Port of Morrow' is the first that we've heard from them in five years. There's a creeping anxiety that comes with the announcement of a new Shins album. Can it live up to expectation? Can they still do it? The answer is, of course they can! Every single time. Port of Morrow is nothing less than exceptional.
Only singer James Mercer remains from the original Shins line-up, having 'dispersed' the rest of the band over the last five years. His new band are without doubt fantastic musicians, but that live chemistry - that 'we played songs to empty rooms for years before anyone gave a shit' feeling - just isn't there. However, the songs are still as timeless and anthemic as they've always been. Mercer's own beautiful, cheerful melancholy is irresistible, and despite his cold disposition, the novelty of hearing the songs live is enough to make the show completely enthralling.
Opening with joyous favourite 'Kissing The Lipless', moving straight into 'Mine's Not A High Horse', the crowd are overwhelmed with indie sentimentality. It's a beautiful thing. The show, the first of two consecutive sold out performances at the HMV Forum, is as nostalgic as it is exciting, because the new songs are so good. 'Simple Song', the lead single from new album that you have inevitably heard on the radio at some point during the last month (unless you have been living in a cave, or perhaps under a rock) proves that The Shins are, musically speaking, in no state of decline. Equally 'The Rifle's Spiral' is a new classic, played with quiet defiance and an understated confidence, Mercer et al know just how right they are getting it. A gently cooing and very sweet singalong to 'New Slang' is a uniting moment and for a few minutes it seems that even Mercer is happy to be here.
The thing is with The Shins, is that every fan has some 'special' life moment that the band personally soundtracked. That's the feeling in the room – utter adoration. The Shins are not a band that are defined by showiness or drama, and James Mercer is never going to become the best friend that the crowd want him to be. They are a band about beautiful songs, great musicianship and their ability to connect with people. Closing the set with 'Sleeping Lessons', you know that their absence has indeed made our hearts grow fonder. Let's just hope they don't stay absent for so long again.