Sharon Van Etten live in London
- By Greg Rose -
- Mar 08, 2012
When you fall in love with a new record, get stuck on repeat for days and rave about it to every person you meet, seeing it performed live is usually an anti-climax. So it was slight trepidation that I joined a politely expectact Cargo crowd to see Sharon Van Etten.
Though she's been around for a while, new record 'Tramp' is a real breakthrough for the US singer. Produced by the irrepressible Aaron Dessner of The National, it is the finest record released in 2012 so far by a country mile, moulding contrasting styles and ideas into a real original. But how will such a genre-mesh work live?
Expected highlights like 'Serpent' duly deliver; with its throbbing riff and effortless anger the lead single from Tramp is open and raw rock 'n' roll. It is blended with the introspection of 'Give Out', an anti-ballad to break the most apathetic heart. Then there is the melodious mid-paced 'One Day', all nestling comfortably alongside each other.
Sharon Van Etten onstage is a group effort, with natural chat between band and audience flowing freely. Video game jokes, mass-Sopranos impressions and gentle torturing of the multi-instrumentalist are all added bonuses. Frequent tuning breaks take comic turns, giving a lighter lilt to what could easily be a po-faced performance.
Another aspect of Tramp that stands out is consistently eye-catching cameos from the likes of Beirut, Wye Oak and The Walkmen. Purged of their presence, the sons they feature on could fall flat, but it is testament to the band's talents - not to mention Van Etten's own gritty yet velvety vocals - that they stand alone with aplomb.
The dark interior of Tramp still wrestles through the witticisms, but there is a sense of fun here that gives songs like 'Leonard' and 'In Line' new context and room to breathe. 'All I Can' builds up beautifully to stake a claim for set highlight, but there are several contendors.
Sharon Van Etten's back in London in May, and if promoters have any sense at a festival near you this summer. Get practising your Sopranos impression and go see her.