April 22nd, 2012, 5:32 pm · · posted by GUEST
For nearly an hour on Saturday night James Mercer led the Shins through a set that was the perfect setup for what was to come on the main stage throughout the rest of the night.
Bringing an inviting spirit and fantastic group of players to the Coachellafest table, the Shins’ blend of rock, pop, and alternative really filled the great wide outdoor of the main area of the Empire Polo Grounds.
In the current Shins lineup, Mercer has found a supporting cast able to fully extend the magic of the Shins’ recordings into the concert setting. In particular, the lead guitar work of Jessica Dobson (Beck, Deep Sea Diver) and drummer Joe Plummer really stood out.
Along with the obvious delight in hearing the Shins perform a magical version of Neil Young’s acoustic gem “Helpless” on a perfect night (no wind, no sun!), highlights came via the group’s terrific 2012 album, “Port of Morrow,” an epic 10-song collection that was explored with a sense of fun and high adventure.
“Simple Song” with its driving, bright and infectious spirit got many on their feet dancing, while on the decidedly sad song “It’s Only Life” Mercer’s wonderful tenor often stretched into a gorgeous falsetto for full effect.
The set seemed to end as fast as it started, with the Shins playing the lushly-arranged “Port of Morrow.
Following the Shins (and serving as the main warm-up act for Radiohead), Bon Iver played a 55-minute set that showcased the group’s blend of folk, alt-country and indie sensibilities as the faithful crowded close to the Coachella Stage cheered.
Singer-songwriter-guitarist Justin Vernon, surrounded on stage by interesting mini street lamps, displayed a musical style that often would find a quiet folk song grow into a neo-grunge roar. Elsewhere, there were tinges of jazz as horn solos were used to enhance songs.
The stunning opener “Perth” (with its amazing guitar line and hushed intro layered with Vernon’s falsetto vocals) was my favorite offering of his set, but “Holocene” reached almost similar depth.
By Robert Kinsler for The Orange County Register.
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