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Opening act Washed Out showed how a 1980s synth-pop sound, so in vogue these days, works well live. Despite the mumbled vocals, the textural polyphony of chillwave synthesizer tracks sounded marvelous through the amphitheater’s crystalline PA.

The Shins proved that wholesomeness delivers. James Mercer’s fresh vocals and cheerful demeanor gave the impression that the band lives clean. His promise that San Diego was “the best crowd he’s had all this tour” (laughable from a drug-addled rocker or plastic pop star) seemed genuine. Amid constant declarations of love from adoring fans caught up in the hour-long sing-along, note-perfect renditions of everything, even difficult tracks like “Kissing the Lipless,” dominated the evening.

The new album is Port of Morrow and they nailed the best track, “Bait and Switch,” like they’ve been playing it for years. “Simple Song” as an opening number evoked lukewarm reactions compared to how amped people were for “Saint Simon” and “New Slang,” which have obviously not gotten old for fans. For the title track, they fuzzed up the guitars and turned up the volume, which worked.

Replacing the final “jam” with one of the band’s elusive Magnetic Fields covers is all I would’ve changed.

  • Concert: the Shins
  • Date: September 30
  • Venue: SDSU Open Air Theatre
  • Seats: B section
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