Not exactly Shin-kicking

*** (3 stars out of 6); July 5 at Arena, Roskilde Festival

When the Shins released their 2001 debut Oh, Inverted World, they helped to define the sound of ‘indie rock’ in the new millennium. Now, five band members and four albums later, my first ever Roskilde gig happened to be a good one, but one of no big surprises. 

The set consisted of a welcoming array of songs that drew from the band’s entire catalogue. The Shins’ latest album, Port of Morrow, is a lot more suitable for festival audiences than their previous releases. And it really was during these newer songs that the band’s recently expanded line-up got a chance to flex their muscles.


The Shins’ lead singer and mastermind James Mercer isn’t exactly known as a talkative showman, but you would expect a little extra effort for a festival like Roskilde. Especially as it was one of the first concerts and the audience clearly needed to warm up. But let’s just say he’s a rocker with no time to waste. When you have songs as good as 'Simple Song' or 'Port of Morrow– “I’m telling ya, this is one of my favourites,” Mercer chanted – you don't hold on to them, you just give the people what they want. They played their songs and played them perfectly.


The crowd sang along with the band’s classics like 'Australia', but yet didn’t fully let themselves go – which might have something to do with the fact that I took in the show on a very crowded viewing platform for the disabled. At least one couple, however, let go of their inhibitions, engaging in an intense makeout session that got me so distracted I missed a whole song. They actually appeared in my dreams the following night.

Perhaps the only real surprise on stage was the woman in this formerly muscular band, guitarist Jessica Dobson, who really powered the tunes. The Shins are masters in crafting cosy, indie tunes, but unfortunately, their music simply isn’t always suitable for festivals.