The Shins warm Hammersmith hearts with a joyous set (Review)

The Shins
Heartworms Tour
Eventim Apollo Hammersmith - London

James Mercer (The Shins) - Philip Giouras

James Mercer (The Shins) - Philip Giouras

The Shins brought their delightful new album ‘Heartworms’ alongside a selection of career spanning classics to London for a truly classic concert that fans will never forget.

Part way through the set, The Shins frontman James Mercer looks in pure delight as he revels in a 5,000 strong crowd at a completely sold-out Hammersmith, he proudly declares that this is the largest crowd The Shins have played to in London, this comes as a shock to me and I imagine the majority of the audience, it’s fair to say the American indie icons have never really hit our charts over this side of the pond, which in itself is a shame but it’s brilliant 16 years on how the band still manage to feel like a little kept secret for music fans.

James is on crowd delighting form throughout and can seemingly do no wrong, it’s lovely to hear of his affections for the historic venue, speaking of his youth listening to Creation Records and hearing bands such as Iron Maiden playing “the Hammersmith”, early on in the night a young man screams “have my babies James”, a little chuckle and he lightly responds “one day science will make this possible’”

I feel a major part of shows is the setlist, more so when a long running and much adored band have to go through an extensive back catalogue whilst somehow managing to plug a new album, tonight it’s fair to say The Shins have found the perfect balance, pure killer and no filler. They open with “Kissing the Lipless” a joyful start to the evening before they surprisingly go straight into a string of hits early on.

“So Now What” featured on Heartworms but has been around for a while and is as epic sounding as ever, the opening moments as the synths shine before James bursts into that momentous “I’ve had this crazy idea, somehow we’re close to the end” It’s clear to see why James loves the song so much and it’s the perfect lead up to mega hit “Simple Song”, It’s a bold move to place such a massive hit early on but it clearly pays off, it’s infectious melodies and anthemic chorus is echoed around the Apollo by a very gracious crowd.

How do you follow this you ask, we’ll latest single “Name For You”, probably the single most catchiest song on the planet (no seriously, listen to it and it’ll be stuck in your head for the rest of the week), it goes down a treat and keeps the momentum going into classic “Australia” with it’s “la la la’s” repeated back in eager fashion.

James Mercer (The Shins) - Philip Giouras

James Mercer (The Shins) - Philip Giouras

The middle of the set is of a slightly lower tempo but is received just as well, a mix of older hits and newer songs from Heartworms are included, highlights have to be an impromptu singalong to the James Mercer’s love letter to England that is “Mildenhall” and classic track “Saint Simon” as the crowds “la da da’s” mix together with a beautiful string section, it’s a wonderful moment and what makes it better is how natural and organic it occurs, a sign of a band that are truly one with it’s fans.

As the main set draws to a close we’re treated to a fantastic rendition of ‘Phantom Limb’ which provides yet another of those organic crowd sing alongs for it’s chorus, the crowd as committed and transfixed as they were when the set started before The Shins finish their main set with first album classic ‘Caring Is Creepy’, after an extended exit for around five minutes the band return for a stellar encore, James takes centre stage with his guitar as he performs the now iconic song for any indie lover ‘New Slang’, the stripped back nature doesn’t stop the crowd lightly singing along in hushed tones.

The most beautiful moment of the night has to be when new song ‘The Fear’ is played, the other members all bring out Violins, it’s enough to bring a tear to your eye, especially when it all comes together towards the song’s finale. Just like they started however the band go out on a high with a very high tempo and loud version of ‘Sleeping Lessons’.

It’s rare to be truly immersed in a set throughout the entire night, The Shins managed to capture everyone in that room’s attention and then some, for me personally it’s my favourite gig of the year to date, something that modern superstars are unfortunately lacking nowadays is a strong connection to their audience but tonight James Mercer was truly one with the crowd, seeing these guys play the U.K. is a true rarity, hunt them out though and you’ll be provided with a truly special experience.

The Shins - Philip Giouras

The Shins - Philip Giouras


Kissing the Lipless
So Now What
Simple Song
Name for You
Australia Mine's
Not a High Horse
Girl Inform Me
Gone for Good
Saint Simon
Painting a Hole
The Rifle's Spiral
Fantasy Island
Phantom Limb
Caring Is Creepy


New Slang
The Fear
Sleeping Lessons


The Shins return to our shores later this year, check out tour dates below:

Green Man Festival (Aug 17 - 20) - Brecon Beacons, UK

Academy (Aug 22nd) - Manchester, UK

Rock City (Aug 23rd) - Nottingham, UK


All photos are (c)copyright Philip Giouras - The Perfect Tempo