Live Review: Sharon van Etten beguiles a crowded Saint Luke’s with diverse musical brilliance

The throbbing synth and ominous hum of ‘Jupiter 4’ fills the room as the band starts. The crowd falls into a tense silence – the bass drum kicks in – and then erupts as Sharon Van Etten walks on stage. Effortless and nuanced, the song swells and soars, and a truly spectacular musical performance at St Luke’s begins.

For those who haven’t been to St Luke’s for a gig, it’s one for the to-do list. It’s a beautifully renovated church with great acoustics, a fantastic atmosphere and a good pub attached to the side of it (does it get any better?). It’s arguably the best venue in Glasgow, and hence Scotland, and when someone like Sharon Van Etten is playing it can be truly mesmerising. The vibrant support from The Golden Filter, an electronic two-piece, did well to dust away from the cobwebs and are well worth a look.

From the foreboding dream-like state of the opener, ‘Comeback Kid’ breaks through the applause into a punchy, upbeat and punky rendition of the album’s belter of a track. Loud and in your face, Sharon’s energy and vocals own the stage, her performance marking confidence and buoyancy. Shifting smoothly into a gentler song off the new record with ‘No One’s Easy to Love,’ the whole room is already infatuated. Having been released on the 18th of January, Remind Me Tomorrow is an atmospheric album of layers of melodies, synths and textures, and the band’s performance and quality of the sound are sublime. The dynamism of the new record is captured perfectly and Van Etten’s voice cuts through it all with beautiful finesse. A return to her sophomore album with ‘One Day’ brings out the acoustic guitar and the country influences of the warming song about lost-love remind us of Sharon Van Etten’s earlier work and diversity as an artist. Another earlier song from the excellent Are We There continues the laid-back atmosphere before being blown to pieces by ‘Hands’ off the new album. The distorted bass and drums emanate powerfully before the song crescendos and consumes the audience within it; Sharon howls the chorus “put your hands on your lover, I’ve got my hands up, mean no harm to one another, put your hands up.” It’s ferocious, it’s urgent; an unexpected show-stopper and a personal favourite of the night.

Drastically changing the mood once again Van Etten sits down to the keyboard and the band leaves the stage making way for an intimate cover of Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Black Boys on Mopeds.’ She confesses a worry with the state of the world and angst for her baby son’s future; a poignant and political ballad which silences the room.  ‘Seventeen,’ Remind Me Tomorrow’s most upbeat song, follows dispelling the quiet melancholy with glorious retrospective-pop.  Easing into it, the performance initially feels slightly flat until the breakdown where Sharon screams into the faces of the front-row “you’re crumbling up just to see, afraid you’ll be just like me” and the song kicks off magnificently, the excitement in the room palpable in response to the band’s energy. The gig continues with a mix of old and new numbers, from tender moments of poise to wailing distortion and back again.  Once again delving back into previous albums, the droning synth of ‘Love More’ brings the gig to a beautiful end. With perfect harmonies and control, Sharon Van Etten and her band leave us with tender and heart-warming song.

A mother, an actor, a counsellor, a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Sharon Van Etten’s brilliance is staggering and the performance displayed it. In a gig which had it all, and with the accomplished group of musicians surrounding her, Sharon Van Etten swathed St Luke’s into heart-felt reverie.  

 

Image: weeklydig via Flickr 

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