|Sharon Van Etten|
The last time I caught Sharon Van Etten, at the much smaller Mercury Lounge, she was basically testing out her new band for the first time with her latest material--performing Tramp in full for an audience who had not yet heard it. Her and her band's performance was flawless, but she was clearly reserved and a little nervous, barely speaking a word in between songs. What a difference a few weeks on tour makes.
On Friday night, Van Etten headlined a very sold out Music Hall of Williamsburg where she looked extremely comfortable on stage, joking frequently with the crowd and her band--her performance no less flawless than I would expect. With The National's Aaron Dessner (who also produced Tramp) on guitar from the middle of the set on, Van Etten and her band played through most of her latest excellent album, along with "Save Yourself" and "Don't Do it" off her last album Epic. Highlights of the set included her performance of "Serpents," which, let's just say it: that's pretty much the best song of 2012 so far. And her encore-ending performance of "Love More" brought the entire show full circle, reminding me of why I fell in love with her music in the first place.
Major credit has to go to openers Shearwater, who are doing one of the most original things in indie today. Their latest album Animal Joy, which is one fine record, takes new shape in a live setting--with frontman Jonathan Meiburg leading a band of four highly talented musicians through a set of layered, melodic and rhythmically complex songs. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what Shearwater are doing right now, but it's clearly not being done as passionately and unique by anyone else at the moment.