Sharon Van Etten’s performance was nothing short of stunning. Upon arrival on the stage, the folk-indie singer cut a dramatic figure, clad in black with a mess of dark hair. All eyes were immediately on the singer, and her following performance was as impactful as her appearance.
Opening with the tender ‘Jupiter 4’, her vocals filled Manchester’s Albert Hall with ease. Despite the tranquillity and ambience that is associated with her music, Van Etten kept the audience engaged with a thrumming selection of lights and an extraordinary live band. There was something deeply romantic about the performance, and once again I was shocked by her ability to make you nostalgic for relationships and love affairs you hadn’t experienced yet. Even though Albert Hall is not a small venue, Van Etten made the gig feel exceptionally intimate with her brilliant vocal power.
Songs such as ‘Comeback Kid’ and ‘Hands’ threw as much energy as was possible into the guitar riffs and upbeat moments, providing a rest from the sadness that Van Etten is perhaps known for. The set was widely picked from early 2019 release Remind Me Tomorrow, but still broad enough for old fans to feel delighted with what they received. An odd moment came in the form of the cover of Sinead O’Connor’s ‘Black Boys on Mopeds’. While still very beautiful, it somehow felt a bit lost within Van Etten’s own work and didn’t quite gel with the rest of the set.
The standout moment of the show did come in the form of fan favourite ‘Every Time the Sun Comes Up’. Simply ethereal, the 2014 classic was harmonic and gorgeous. Stripped-back and raw, it was just as melancholic and tragic in person as recorded. One of my personal favourite tracks of Van Etten’s, it didn’t disappoint. Despite the track nearing five years old, it still felt as fresh as it did the first time I ever heard it. As she transitioned from ‘Every Time’ to ‘Stay’, the crowd was treated to a series of all-too haunting moments. ‘Stay’ tugged at the heartstrings in a similar fashion, and it was impossible not to feel yourself tearing up at points.
The encore began with ‘I Told You Everything’, the powerful ballad that so many people have been playing on repeat. Again, the melancholia stood out but it wasn’t necessarily boring or unengaging. It was just beautiful – a sort of sadness that filled the room without making everyone exceptionally miserable. Van Etten finished the set with ‘Love More’, a song from 2010 second album Epic. Long and set over humming strings, it felt like a particularly grand and sweeping way of ending. Spreading the messages Van Etten is so known for – love and welcome – it felt like a very suitable way of ending.
In the set, Van Etten really managed to prove that artists known for their soft sounds can still prove themselves, excellent live artists. While maybe never destined for arenas, she still filled a reasonably large venue with an audience desperately clinging on for every word. Dusted in something magical, Van Etten really could be listened to until the sun comes up.
Don’t miss Sharon Van Etten as she returns to this year’s Greenman Festival 15th-18th August, alongside some of the hottest alternative acts of the year!