My first experience with Sharon Van Etten was 2009's Because I Was In Love, but it wasn't until last years' Epic that I really fell in love with her angelic voice and powerfully personal songs. That album was fairly high on my favorite albums of 2010 list, and I wasn't alone - it seems like it was on almost every "best of" list I saw. Just now in the midst of her first headlining tour, she stopped in Boston last Thursday with Lady Lamb the Beekeeper and St. Claire.
The set began with the songwriter alone on stage, guitar in hand. "I Wish I Knew", the first song from her debut, instantly quieted the audience with its whispered beauty. The first three songs off Epic followed, ratcheting up the volume and intensity, as her bare bones band (just bass and drums) joined for "Peace Signs" and stayed for most of the main set. All of the favorites from Epic were featured - "One Day", "Save Yourself", "Don't Do It" and the gorgeous, set-closing "Love More", all played with even more fervor than the album versions.
Sharon Van Etten is working on her follow-up to Epic with The National's Aaron Dessner, and one of the highlights of the night was "All I Can", a new song that one hopes will find its way onto that upcoming album. In quintessential style, Van Etten croons "we all make mistakes" over jangly electric guitar and a driving rhythm. Another new song, with a working title of "Kevin's" - named for the owner of the apartment in which it was written, Van Etten explained - was more somber, featuring gorgeous falsetto vocals.
On stage, she draws you in with her casual, endearingly-normal between-song banter, and then knocks you on your ass with the power of her voice and gravity of her songs. One moment projecting a casual, self-deprecating personality and the next moment transforming into a powerhouse of visceral raw emotion. The crowd was an interesting mix as well - many there to comiserate, fewer there to celebrate. All there to witness a night of powerful, beautiful music from one of the most promising young songwriters writing songs today.
A full recording in absolutely pristine sound is available for stream or download. Huge thanks to Sharon Van Etten and Brighton Music Hall (especially Dan Seiders on sound, who deserves all the credit for how amazing this sounds). As always please support the bands who allow us to tape shows by buying their music. Enjoy, and share!
Sharon Van Etten
Brighton Music Hall - Boston MA
April 14, 2011
Full set download: mp3 zip
Look for a review + live recording of Lady Lamb The Beekeeper's amazing set soon!