In a Paradiso crammed to the very brim, Sharon van Etten showcased her seemingly infinite talent with a magnificent performance this Friday (29th March). Opening the show was electronic duo The Golden Filter, who sounded like The Knife if Karin Deijer wanted only to make pop music and not cause headaches. Despite the difficulty of being an unknown duo on a big stage, they offered up some nice hooks and the undoubted charisma of lead singer Penelope Trappes make them an interesting watch.
Coming to the stage beneath swirling smoke and dressed in an extremely snazzy burgundy suit, Sharon van Etten began her show with Jupiter 4, a standout track from latest record Remind Me Tomorrow. Every track from that album is played tonight, and it’s a brave choice to play lead single Comeback Kid second. With its pulsating drums and the emotional intensity of the chorus, it could easily close the show. Van Etten is a dazzling performer and her live show reflects the subtle evolution she has undertaken on Remind Me Tomorrow; her music is still emotionally piercing but now wrapped in melodies that can get feet moving. No One’s Easy to Love is such a song, a deeply personal lyric melds with guitars and lovely looping synths to which the audience can’t help but dance.
Tarifa, from 2014’s Are We There, demonstrates van Etten’s knack for combining pop melodies and melancholic vulnerability. Her vocal is charged with sadness, but the guitar sweeps the track along and sounds almost sun-drenched. There is a brief sojourn as the band leave the stage for van Etten to play a gorgeous, plaintive cover of Sinéad O’Connor’s Black Boys on Mopeds. A double-header of Seventeen and Every Time the Sun Comes Up brings a stunning opening set to a close. Seventeen in particular is a poptastic but deeply soulful song, and gives van Etten space to stretch and magnetically pace the stage.
During the encore we are treated to an industrious version of Serpents, the scything guitars almost savage and offering an indication of the range of van Etten songwriting. There are sometimes mournful pianos, sometimes progressive, cavorting basslines or frenzied punk guitars. But it all feels cohesive; van Etten has created a musical world all of her own, in which she can exist within a range of guises and tones. The show ends in a surprising manner with Love More from debut album Epic. A sombre piano led song, with a lyric that details a person recovering from abuse and learning to feel love again. It’s a startling way to finish a show defined by fizzing energy but van Etten carries it with glittering confidence. It’s a wonderful, surprising end to a show in which an already extraordinary songwriter has come of age as breathtaking performer. James Turrell