Sharon Van Etten‘s new album Remind Me Tomorrow is a different direction for the singer-songwriter: futuristic and spacey synths colliding with her one-of-a-kind voice and old-school style. Her stop in Philly at Union Transfer explored all of this. Van Etten’s set on Thursday felt like a new awakening for the artist, who had taken a long break from touring after her previous album, Are We There. The energy from the stage was palpable, and the crowd was electrified by the band’s performance and Van Etten’s gripping presence. With it being only night two of eighteen, there are still kinks to be worked out, but they were far outweighed by the sheer star power Van Etten brings to her live show.
Nilufer Yanya opened the night with a set of bubbly punk and R&B. The London-based band combines bluesy vocals with heavy guitars, while Yanya herself tended to fingerpick her solos, all mixed in a pop structure, with some disco-style drums to get the crowd warmed up on the rainy night. She played through her previously released singles off her EP Do You Like Pain?, as well as some new songs from her upcoming album Heavyweight Champion of the Year, including the title track and “In Your Head,” a jumpy, static-y track featuring Yanya’s lyrics running into each other, turning into a hiccup at the chorus. Though she has few songs officially out yet, she’s certainly one to watch in the coming year.
Sharon Van Etten’s set began with “Jupiter 4,” named for the Roland synth featured throughout her latest album. Van Etten stood at center stage, her four-piece band surrounding her on the stage. She continued with tracks off the new album, beginning calmly then bursting through with “No One’s Easy To Love” and “Comeback Kid,” both of which benefited from the full-volume production of Union Transfer: the bass felt straight in one’s stomach, and synths as gritty as Philly’s favorite mascot.
“Comeback Kid” was especially suited for a live performance, Van Etten reaching out away from her, while the syncopated drums injected more verve into the band’s chemistry. Later in the show, Van Etten busted out “Seventeen,” a remarkable hit off the album, but due to some technical difficulties with her mic cutting in and out, the full effect was lost. Despite this, however, the song still landed like a grenade at the final chorus, when Van Etten got on her knees and screamed, “I know what you’re gonna be / I know that you’re gonna be!”
Although the show included mostly songs off Remind Me Tomorrow, Van Etten found some space for some of her original hits like “One Day” and “Love More” from Epic (the latter of which was recorded in Philadelphia as part of Weathervane Music’s Shaking Through series back in 2010), “Tarifa” from Are We There, and her biggest song, “Every Time The Sun Comes Up.” “Tarifa” made the biggest impression, the slow ballad beginning quiet, just Van Etten on her guitar, then building over the course of four-minutes to bring in the whole band and Van Etten screaming into what feels your very soul. If you want just a simulacrum of that,check out her performance on Twin Peaks’ very-own Roadhouse. She also threw in a cover of Sinead O’Connor’s “Black Boys on Mopeds,” for the most serene moment of the night, leaving it up to her voice and her distilled piano to leave the crowd in stunned silence.
After closing out on “Stay,” the closer off her last album, she and the band, well, stayed for an encore, running through “I Told You Everything,” the aforementioned album’s opener, “Serpents” and “Love More” two deep cuts for fans of the longtime performer. She thanked Philadelphia once again, where she recorded her first two albums, and her and the band took a bow before exiting the stage.
No One’s Easy to Love
Black Boys on Mopeds
Every Time the Sun Comes Up
I Told You Everything
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