At Lincoln Hall on Friday night, headliner Sharon Van Etten took her guitar and began to strum, opening with a song that encapsulates feelings of warmth and painful nostalgia:
“You’re the reason why I’ll move to the city/You’re why I’ll need to leave.”
Her vocals are likened to that of a sharpened version of Charlyn Marie Marshall aka Cat Power from her song “In This Hole,” yet there are rarely ever comparisons to such artists as Marshall. Van Etten, for lack of a better phrase, keeps her cool on stage. She had a lighthearted tone Friday, poking fun at opening band Shearwater from Austin, Texas.
Van Etten joked about touring the first time with an actual band, which consisted of a drummer, bassist and back-up vocals/keyboardist (with whom she had an entertaining rapport with throughout the evening). Before this tour, promoting her latest album release, Tramp (JagJaguwar, Feb. 7), she had toured as a solo artist: “I remember a few years back playing at the Empty Bottle,” giving a shot out to a friend, Matthew, “I love you, Matthew, I do.”
Van Etten grew up in New Jersey and lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., but her vocals have a Celtic flare to them. One thing that is not lacking is the passion and paroxysms of past loves lost. One could hear a couple of girls in the crowd discussing “how big of an asshole that dude must feel now.” Maybe these two empathic fans were referring to the antagonist in much of Van Etten’s songs from previous albums.
“Peace Signs” was played later in the set, delaying gratification. Van Etten played her new songs with fervor and pride, finishing them off so beautifully, one couldn’t care less whether she sang her quintessential “anthem”
“I woke up, I was already me, I was almost aftraid I was … peace signs.” This song has little to do with that assumed asshole filled with regret; it is one of her more light-hearted songs lyrically.
Ending on a light note, she told the crowd, “I love Chicago; you are so cute. Thank you so much.”
Check out Pop ‘stache’s MP3 section for a free download of “Serpents” from Tramp.