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Concert review: The Shins turn back the clock during show at Express Live!

The best songs are all closely tied to a certain emotion. Nostalgia was the emotion of choice for James Mercer and The Shins during their show Wednesday night at Express Live.

Things have changed for Mercer since he first released “Oh! Inverted World” 16 years ago. For starters, he’s the last remaining member of the American indie-pop band.

But that didn’t stop him from turning his well-documented studio magic into an electrifying 90-minute set in front of a full crowd still longing for The Shins youthful past.

Mercer and his five-piece backing band provided just that — an energetic, career-spanning 17-song performance that made the crowd remember the places they were when first hearing the popular chorus hooks. The concert was half performance, half sing-along, andthe crowd enjoyed hit after hit, starting with popular early songs “Caring is Creepy” and “Australia” before laying into tracks from the band’s recently releasedfifth studio album, “Heartworms.”

The crowd fully engaged in frequent sing-alongs, such as the new album’s opening track, “A Name for You,” and the band’s 2012 hit “Simple Song” off its fourth studio album. The five-year gap between albums clearly created a longing from deprived fans of the band’s early work, fo Columbus was among dozens of sold-out shows for the band’s tour.

And Mercer seemed genuinely happy to be back on stage. His youthful exuberance and genuine enjoyment matched the crowd song for song and gave the bare-bones stage setup the much needed energy it lacked.

Mercer stood center stage the entire show in front of colorful strobes and carnival-style stuffed flowers, meant to evoke the album art from “Heartworms.”

While the nostalgia-filled tracks of old made up a bulk of the set list, Mercer showed the maturity he has learned over his 20-year career with encore track “The Fear” off his newest album. Aptly named, the beautiful album-ender is backed by a lovely violin melody. The crisp studio sound was almost perfectly duplicated by the three violins accompanying Mercer’s dark and sad lyrics in the live iteration.

And then Mercer turned to the song that put The Shins on the map in 2001. The band performed a smooth, slowed-down version of “New Slang,” its most popular song to date.

It set the band up well for the closing hit that provided the most frenetic movement of the night. “Sleeping Lessons” off the band’s third album worked the crowd up to an apex before Mercer seamlessly weaved in one of Tom Petty’s signature hits, “American Girl.”

It was a fitting tribute to Petty, although The Shins played it on this tour before he died in October. The song was also a fitting end to the concert that will leave a satisfied crowd singing the tunes the whole way home.

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