Devastatingly Beautiful Music Chases Away the Rain

April 18th, 2011

Sharon Van Etten – Music Hall of Williamsburg – April 16, 2011

April showers make it difficult to go to concerts. The urge to stay in and watch bad TV is strongest when the weather is least inviting. But with determination and proper rain gear, a lazy, waterlogged night is avoidable. And when a musician can make you forget the dreary conditions, seemingly transporting you away, a concert feels like the perfect haven from the elements.

On Saturday at Music Hall of Williamsburg, Sharon Van Etten, supported by guest vocalists and a backing band, transfixed an audience of weather-tested fans. Poised with a candy red Gibson guitar slung over her shoulder, Van Etten used both her incredibly powerful voice and earnest guitar work to enliven many beloved songs from her new album, Epic, as well as earlier demos.

Her songs, impressive as recorded material, are devastatingly beautiful in person. From the initial lyrics of her opening song to her solitary encore performance of “Damn Right,” Van Etten mystified the crowd, silencing all with the force and passion of her singing. And although some audience members called out requests between songs, Van Etten showed only appreciation and kindness toward all those in attendance. Even as a fan insistently yelled out some inaudible message, she cheerfully dedicated the next song, “One Day,” to that person. And over the course of the show, Van Etten proved she’s one of the select few singer-songwriters who can make the rain go away. —Jared Levy