19 Aug, 2012

Sharon van Etten at the Fox Theatre

Sharon van Etten

Sharon van Etten

Sharon Van Etten’s nearly perfect vocals rang in the Fox Theater Sunday night in Boulder. Supported with a full band and star multi-instrumentalist Heather Broderick Van Etten switched back and forth between an acoustic and electric guitar and awed the crowd with her personal and introspective songs. Old tunes were played that were “wrote in her parents basement in my 20s” in addition to selections from the new LP, Tramp.

I was not familiar with Van Etten’s work but quickly learned her light and haunting voice is what sets her apart from other down tempo, heavyhearted singer-songwriters.  Her guitar playing is simple driving strums, nothing that could not be quickly learned at home. She introduced one song with “This was the first song I wrote on electric guitar. It is three chords, I could teach you it in two minutes”. The simplicity didn’t matter, her words were meaningful and the song’s energy built in all the right places.  Her band mates were fine players and provided intensity and texture but Van Etten’s presence on stage was strong enough to fare it alone. She effortlessly commanded silence from the entire audience. Many times throughout the night I heard not even a whisper from the crowd and the shutter on my camera was obnoxiously loud.

The time between songs was almost as entertaining as the music itself. Van Etten spoke to the audience as if they were close friends, told jokes, and personal stories about her songs’ conceptions. Van Etten’s sister was in the audience and she asked her for a request. After the song she introduced her sister to a friend’s brother that had just moved to Boulder. There were a lot of smiles from the stage yet, Van Etten informed us she was in a “funk” and didn’t know how to get out of it but that it was ok because “sometimes that just happens”.

Looped vocals from Broderick became eerie howls that created a powerful soundscape for Van Etten’s entrance on “Much More Than That”. The opening line “Please don’t take me lightly, I mean every word” struck me and I began to take in her thoughtful lyrics as much as her voice.

“Save Yourself”, ‘I’m Wrong” and “Get Out” were other favorites of the night. I was pleased with the amount of pieces performed and could have gone for another full set. Sharon Van Etten may write simple songs but the soul behind them is old and wise. I highly recommend a Sharon Van Etten show – she has worthy music to share.

Photo and review by Amy Moore-Shipley. Show on 08/19/12.

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