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The Shins' James Mercer Performs at Croce's

Lucky fans provided with an intimate acoustic set

The Shins' James Mercer

The Shins' James Mercer

Courtesy Erin Goss
  • The Shins' James Mercer
  • The Shins' James Mercer
  • The Shins' James Mercer
  • The Shins' James Mercer
  • The Shins' James Mercer
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When the crowned king of indie rock royalty, James Mercer, agrees to play one of KPRI’s popular private listening parties, the evening becomes intimate in more ways than one. On February 6, fans of The Shins got up close and personal with one another, piling into every inch of Croce’s Jazz Bar located in the Gaslamp Quarter, spilling into the dining room, leaning over tables and dodging food servers just to catch a glimpse of frontman James Mercer during this rare acoustic performance. 
 
It wasn’t until Mercer quietly walked into the room and took a seat in front of the mic that a calm came over the frenzied restaurant. Mercer was dressed in jeans, a blue flannel shirt and sporting a short haircut that converged into a neatly trimmed beard. With so many current musicians wearing attention getting outfits and opting for over-the-top entrances, Mercer’s Average-Joe vibe was welcoming and instantly relatable. With only a guitar and a microphone to distinguish him from the rest of the audience, it was clear that fans were gazing upon a true musician – one that relied strictly on his talent to entertain audiences.

Acknowledging that this was a brief set, Mercer gave a quick hello and launched into his performance. Though the music was only comprised of Mercer’s guitar and vocals, the songs were emotive, and sounded incredibly full, as if designed for this kind of stripped down performance. The bareness of the songs allowed Mercer’s voice to be showcased to its fullest potential. Mercer often sang with his eyes closed as if completely unaware of his guests, and displayed impressive control over his vocal range, commanding the attention of the tightly packed room. 

To promote the upcoming release of The Shins latest album, Port of Morrow (out March 20 via Columbia) Mercer played two new tracks, the single, “Simple Song” and the B-side, “September” that he simply introduced as a, “love song.”  The new songs flowed easily in between a string of old favorites and elicited enthusiastic applause that suggested many fans were already quite familiar with the new tracks. Mercer rarely paused between songs to engage in banter, expect once to pay tribute to Croce’s founder, jazz musician Jim Croce, confessing that he himself was in fact a fan of the late musician. With the clock ticking in this brief KPRI sponsored set, Mercer quickly segued into his final songs, “New Slang” and lastly the acoustically inclined track, “Young Pilgrims.”  
 
After just under 30 minutes Mercer brought the set to a close and politely thanked the audience for listening and then slipped out the room as quietly and surreptitiously as he’d entered.