The Manchester Cathedral would seem like the ideal venue for the haunting folk rocker Sharon Van Etten. Yet from the very first song it was clear she was relying heavily on the pre-existing atmosphere inherent in this celestial building, with her performance lacking any of her own emotion. Whilst Van Etten’s vocals were spotless, they flowed so effortlessly from her mouth, it was as if she need not try. As the band dispersed for Sharon to perform the chilling ‘Keep’, which she announced as her father’s favourite song, the sentiment really did feel genuine. Supported only by the simple picking of her acoustic guitar, Sharon’s voice was laid bare, taking time to elaborately draw out each note. Yet these moments of sincerity were fleeting, and the band returned to play a poor attempt at a dance tune with ‘Our Love’. Disrupting the tenderness, that had been so elegantly produced prior to the band’s return, meant that this forced, upbeat synth seemed inappropriate and stifling.
The harmonies throughout flowed naturally, but often the backing vocals were overpowering and any obvious lead was indistinguishable. This competition of voices on ‘Nothing Will Change’, drew ironic attention to the lack of variation between songs. Van Etten’s voice is like a perfectly smooth chocolate mousse, but as everybody knows, there’s only so much mousse you can spoon inside you before you begin to feel a bit sick. In no way does Van Etten evoke nauseous tendencies, but what was once sweet and angelic, became dry and at times plain boring. By the last song, ‘I Love You But I’m Lost’, Van Etten’s grand and swooping vocals were reduced to a whine, which when placed over a loop of distant moaning, made a fairly unsatisfactory closure to a somewhat lacklustre performance.
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