Sharon Van Etten – Warsaw – February 18, 2015
Sharon Van Etten is known and appreciated for her powerful voice and ability to craft evocative and often haunting songs like “Your Love Is Killing Me,” a blunt title with equally disquieting lyrics. So, it can be a illuminating experience to witness the author of such bleak sentiments in a live setting—as a sold-out crowd did last night at Warsaw—and realize that Van Etten also happens to be quite funny, self-deprecating and downright cheerful, even while singing lines like “I wanted to try for you/ Wanted to die for you/ Dramatic things” from “Leonard.”
The act of performing may be therapeutic, but it’s also clearly just a lot of fun for Van Etten, and she gave her hometown Brooklyn crowd a set that touched on material from her most recent album, Are We There, like “Tarifa,” “Taking Chances” and “Break Me,” as well as numbers from records both previous and forthcoming, “Love More,” “I Don’t Want to Let You Down,” plus even a lovely cover of Damien Jurado’s “Museum of Flight.” (“To those of you who know this song, air high five!”) Van Etten’s vocals were beautifully complemented by backup singer Heather Woods Broderick and rounded out with instrumentation that included flourishes of saxophone and harmonium.
The night’s final song began with a false start due to a guitar-tuning snafu, after which Van Etten charmingly poked fun at herself, and upon regaining composure (and finding the right key), the singer-songwriter and her band proceeded to play a searing version of “Serpents,” perhaps the set’s most intense and raw song. For her part, Van Etten seemed at home making lighthearted banter with the crowd and with the visceral bite of the song, while the audience was simply captivated by it all. —Alena Kastin | @AlenaK