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Sharon Van Etten: Killin’ Em Softly at The Earl

Posted :: April 27, 2012 | 11:57 am ::

Sharon Van Etten at The Earl in Atlanta, April 2012
Sharon Van Etten brought her signature brand of velvety gut punches to The Earl on Wednesday night in an intimate, arresting concert that kept us all hanging on her every word.

Once she stepped closer to the mic and let out a roar, the seeming ordinariness of the evening came to an abrupt halt. Opening the set with the gentle strength and dark desperation of “All I Can,” Van Etten moved through Tramp tracks with abundant dexterity, effortlessly switching tones, moods, and instruments. The auto harp she produced for “Magic Chords” was a sight (well, and sound). She alternated between destroying us with her haunting, smoky howl and restoring us with wholesome, sweet harmonies in the next breath.

Between songs, Van Etten exchanged witty banter with the crowd, extolling the virtues of John Travolta’s filmography (“but not Face Off“) and his Saturday Night Fever-era hotness. In the midst of this casual chit-chat, the entire audience learned of Sharon’s friend “Matt,” and they proceeded to have a conversation that we were all privy to. This is the hallmark of the Van Etten experience: you are party to her life, her emotional range, and seemingly, her.

Sharon Van Etten at The Earl in Atlanta, April 2012
Before we got too comfortable, SVE disarmed us once more with penetrating executions of “Give Out,” “Leonard,” and “Serpents.” I saw eyes close. I saw feet tap. I saw hips sway. I may or may not have seen tears. For “I’m Wrong,” Doug Keith secured amazing, unusual sounds by bowing his bass. Thank you, concert companion, for informing me of the name of that trick.

Perhaps because of the familiarity established throughout the night or perhaps because their mamas didn’t teach them any better, some folks in the crowd were altogether too comfortable having loud conversations during the quieter numbers. Fortunately, there was a spontaneous League Of Librarians to decidedly shush them. Upon their fake exit – and increased lighting – I took stock of the audience and saw so much diversity, indicative of how accessible SVE’s music is. There were mullets, afros, bowls, and silver hair; Y’ers and X’ers and Sandwich Generation.

For her encore, “Love More,” Van Etten busted out an orange, story-laden, U.S Customs-ransomed harmonium and rendered us all raptly silent and grateful. One word review? Impeccable. Four word follow up? Don’t ever miss her.

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