Sharon Van Etten, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
There aren’t many artists who, when a fan sneezes halfway through a heartfelt torch song, the crowd transfixed, can pause to say “Bless you!” into the microphone, and instantly resume where they left off, recapturing the song and its all-enveloping mood. But Sharon Van Etten can.
The 31-year-old Brooklyn indie folk-rock singer-songwriter wrote her latest album, Tramp, released early this year, in response to an abusive boyfriend who told her that she would never get anywhere as a singer. Looking around at this besotted sold-out crowd, how wrong could he have been?
Tramp was produced by Aaron Dessner of the revered indie-rock band The National, while among the guest musicians on the album is Beirut’s Zach Condon. Her steady rise has been aided by Bon Iver covering one of her songs, the smoky, bluesy vocals of which are most comparable to another treasured torch-bearer for emotive rock, Cat Power.
Much of the material on Van Etten’s three albums is inspired by relationships, their ups and (mainly) downs – as the strap line “because I was in love” that introduces her Twitter account and was the title of her 2009 debut album, attests. She brings colour to the depths of emotions with focused intensity, best of all on Epic’s haunting, melancholic “Don’t Do It”, or otherwise lays bare those dramas, as on “Serpents”, when she sings: “You enjoy sucking on dreams/ so I will fall asleep with someone other than you”. Tonight she and her band powerfully transform “I’m Wrong” into the night’s angriest song, finger-picked guitar morphing into the droning post-rock of Mogwai, the sound distorted and bowed aggressively. The song builds from eerie to furious, Van Etten on the floor manipulating guitar pedals, before a dawn breaks and her clear voice rings out.
There may be bitterness running through her songs, but it’s always delivered with the understated grace of her beautiful lilting vocals. These are complemented perfectly by the sultry harmonising of the keyboardist Heather Woods Broderick, adding further depth.
She thanks her crowd sweetly, praises her band members and support bands to the rafters, tells self-deprecating stories of failed romances and kookily tells the crowd that she is known to “freak out” on tour. But whenever she performs, Van Etten is the most accomplished and compelling of all.
TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success
tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
- 5 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
Daredevil, Netflix, TV review: Marvel wins first fight in bid for television domination with Charlie Cox's superhero vigilante
London art exhibition features portrait of Iraqi migrant shot dead in Iraq after being refused UK asylum
Grace Dent on TV: Peter Kay's Car Share made me genuinely LOL
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
Indonesia executions live: 'Hysterical' families heard prisoners being shot dead by firing squad
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds