Posted in music | pictures on January 20, 2012

photos by Jessica Amaya, words by Christopher Paragraph

Sharon Van Etten

You know that moment at the end of a tied basketball game when someone puts up a three at the buzzer and the whole crowd is fixated and breathless? That's basically how the crowd was as Sharon Van Etten took the stage Wednesday night at Mercury Lounge (1/18), silently focused as the band set up, as if waiting for some kind of historic proclamation. Though it provided some initial awkwardness, the crowd loosened up as the set moved on, though never really losing that initial fixation. Clearly, this was an audience already enamored with her and eager to hear new songs, which she provided, running seamlessly through her upcoming Jagjaguwar debut "Tramp," from top to bottom.

Many of these songs were played live for the first time, though clearly the band had nailed down their parts from recording and/or rehearsing. This was no practice run-through. It came across more as a showcase of what they've accomplished. The band seemed totally at ease with the songs, as if they could easily play them drunk and backwards (which may be necessary seeing as they are about to embark on a two month tour with Shearwater and The War On Drugs). They make the most out of what they have, frequently switching off between harmonies, bass, guitar, keys, and organ, never overplaying and tastefully articulating the well-composed parts. In particular, Zeke Hutchins (drums) provided the perfect amount of "power without powering." His style is musical and fits the songs in a way that (unfortunately) is kind of rare these days.

The opening song "Warsaw" initially felt like a departure, hinged on a heavy churning drone, with a keyboard bassline that made the song feel far more electronic than any of her past work. But the following song, "Give Out," quickly recalled the lyrical, emotional power than Van Etten has come to be known for. In fact, it may be the best example of this yet. Now settled in, and blown away, the audience erupted and was fully in the palm of her hand, where they stayed for the duration of the set. The last time I saw a crowd so silent was A.A. Bondy at Bowery Ballroom (who happened to be the house music after the Sharon show. Coinicidence? Yes.) It was one of those shows where people, shockingly, weren't constantly checking their cell phones. As if looking down for a second might cause them to miss an important moment.

After seeing this show, not just musically but in terms of Van Etten's appearance and demeanor, it makes all her work to-date more relevant, or at least puts it in a clearer perspective. Her past songs, and I'm a big fan of them, now seem to be mere skeletons of this new record. They clue the listener in, like signposts on the road to where she currently is artistically: a definite peak, but by no means at her capacity. She was bigger than Mercury Lounge Wednesday night and everyone there knew it. On this new material, Van Etten has a voice that can reel you in like Mazzy Star, but with the songwriting of someone like David Bazan.

Miraculously, not a single person called out requesting any of her old songs. The crowd was more than content getting an intimate preview of what's to come. And if this show was any indication, we can expect big things.

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Speaking of big things, Sharon's next THREE NYC SHOWS are at Bowery Ballroom (twice) and Music Hall of Williamsburg. Tickets are now on sale for all three.

More pictures, the setlist (aka the new album tracklist), and a video from Mercury Lounge below...

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Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten @ Mercury Lounge 1.18.2012 from Jessica Amaya on Vimeo.

setlist
Warsaw
Give out
Serpents
Kevin's
Leonard
In Line
All I Can
We Are Fine
Magic Chords
Ask
I'm Wrong
Joke or A Lie

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Comments (36)

Jesus...the hyperbole used descive SVE on this site is unreal. She's an average singer-songwriter. Not the second coming like the staff writers want you to believe. I've yet to blown away by any of her songs. They're all just very okay to decent.

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 2:49 PM

Wow, not an ounce of hyperbole.

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 2:49 PM

Really? Not ONE song for the album that came out, you know, two years ago?

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 2:50 PM

I hate myself for feeling this, but I am massively sexually attracted to SVE. The music is like cats having sex, but I get a raging boner every time I look at that face. WHY AM I SUCH A RETARD?!?!?

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 2:52 PM

16 ounce hyperbole of hummus

Posted by Dan K. | January 20, 2012 2:54 PM

As far as female performers (current) goes, I would rank them like this:

Bjork > Sharon Van Etten > tuneyards (sorry not doing caps) > everyone else including santigold/mia!

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 2:55 PM

Was it really that good? Show I go to the Bowery Ballroom show?

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 2:57 PM

I heard Serpents on the radio recently, and thought it was better than anything from the previous record. Really great song.

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:00 PM

It's nice to see BV finally reporting some Sharon Van Etten news.

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:01 PM

Ikea bought this space for sve to payback for the blowjobs

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:07 PM

haha @ 301pm

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:08 PM

While I do agree that the review above is a bit over the top, I thought the show was fantastic. The new songs really are great and there are a couple slow burners that just rock. Pretty big departure from her earlier material, on the whole.

Don't remember if it was Give Out or Serpents, but one of them is a real in-your-face rocker, which was nice to see/hear. I recall really enjoying the tune All I Can, as well.

It was a great show. If you haven't checked her out before, you should. Plus, she's just so damn cute and charming!

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:10 PM

Gush much?

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:11 PM

what kind of shit writing is this?

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:19 PM

@2:57 watch the video, she was that good.

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:22 PM

Ironically, the commenters seem to hate it when people have strong opinions.

Posted by Christopher Paragraph | January 20, 2012 3:25 PM

6 of these songs have been played by her live over the last couple of years. Joke or a Lie is actually an old song.
Gush if you want, but a little bit of research might also be a good thing.

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:25 PM

@3:25 what is your point exactly? The show couldn't have been enjoyable because she's been playing some of these already? If your a fan of her music then you can expect that most likely you will have seen her play some of these and also expect some you have not seen.

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:32 PM

I thought the show was just ok. I knew she'd be testing out the new material before she starts touring, so I knew it might not be the best show, but I came away pretty unimpressed. Maybe it's because I don't know the songs that well and it might be something that gets better with more listens, but I was kind of bored the whole time. Someone buy that woman more than one guitar strap if she's going to change guitars every song.

The new girl in the band is pretty smokin' hot though.

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:34 PM

the guys name is christopher paragraph for fucks sake. take the hyperbole with a grain of salt

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:35 PM

isnt she just a second rate cat power? the new album is merely good.

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:37 PM

Idiot 3:32, the show was enjoyable. The writing of this review, not so much. The entire paragraph about how most of these songs were new and never performed live is either hyperbole or proof that the writer knows bunk about SVE.

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:43 PM

I think you used 'bunk' wrong, 3:43

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:46 PM

man you guys are MEAN

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:50 PM

2:52 - because she's cute. Also, you're a virgin.

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:54 PM

has anyone ever read a well written review on brooklyvegan?

the writing has never not blown.

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:54 PM

i think you used 'hyperbole' wrong, 3:43

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 3:56 PM

Thank you, 3:54. I for one have always thought that the world did not have nearly enough parents-basement-dwelling, self-proclaimed internet-spelling-and-diction police.

Have at it, Marshall. I look forward to how you're gonna clean up this town.

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 4:04 PM

Watched the video. Yup, cats having sex alright.

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 4:08 PM

RELEVANT.

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 5:33 PM

I think you used RELEVANT wrong 5:33.

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 6:51 PM

i think you used used wrong 6.51.

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 7:19 PM

are her shows free? people don't pay for that music . . . . do they?

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 7:41 PM

BV reviewers tried to major in literature. now they live in williamsburg and spend their parents money

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 7:58 PM

She be fugly

Posted by Anonymous | January 20, 2012 11:45 PM

You guys are morons. Good luck with that.

Posted by Anonymous | January 21, 2012 2:13 AM

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