sharon van etten

Concert Review: Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen, August 12, Massey Hall

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | Leave a comment


When it was announced that Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen and Julien Baker would be touring together as the Wild Hearts tour, my friend casually dubbed it “The Sad Olympics,” which made me chuckle. After all, the three artists are known for their honest, heartfelt, and sometimes therapeutic songwriting. It would seem that touring together would only amplify some of those elements for the crowd. Sad Olympics or not, the Wild Hearts tour was a great idea as the group played two packed nights at the gorgeously renovated Massey Hall.

Due to logistical issues, the night started for me with Angel Olsen. My only real knowledge of her music going in was the song “Shut Up Kiss Me” and so I was actually expecting an almost poppy act. What I got was a much wider spectrum of music, ranging from pop to rock to even bit of a country flavor, all of which complemented her vocals. It appeared that she had faced some equipment and/or band issues on the way in, with the rest of the touring group filling in, but it didn’t seem to bother Angel, who peppered her set with a lot of light hearted banter. A major theme of the night was how much of a collaborative effort the tour was and if there’s one way to show it, it’s to have other bands play your music.

All in all, a good set.

When Sharon Van Etten first appeared on stage after a brief break, my first thought was “holy shit.” Appearing in the middle of the stage with a sparkly top and amazing lighting, I was blown away by the presentation.

It was a shock to my system because it’s been a while since I saw SVE and my lasting memories are always of her more intimate shows at Lee’s Palace. The opening track “Headspace,” off the new album We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong, just sounded epic and grand with it’s dramatic chorus line (I really liked the hint of synth in the song). What’s more, Sharon’s presence and delivery of the song gave it a ‘big song’ vibe. I was like, dang, this is a star.

After a couple more songs, I was like, “Is this the new SVE experience?” However, at that exact moment the show pivoted to a more familiar feeling with the song “Come Back.” Even in the more ballady songs, the production sounded big. I was surprised that her set focused primarily on the later material but I guess given the limited set time available, decisions had to be made.

Highlights for me were what I would call reworked versions of “Every Time the Sun Comes Up” and of course, “Seventeen” which might be her most recognizable song despite only being released a few years ago

An encore brought back Angel Olsen for their hit pandemic collab “Like I Used To” and everyone left happy. Sad Olympics this was not, and post-pandemic I’m not here for that anyway.

Album Review: Sharon Van Etten – epic Ten

Posted on by Paul in Albums | Leave a comment

Sharon Van Etten
Sharon Van Etten at SXSW 2011

Sharon Etten’s epic was released back in September of 2010 and while it was her second release, it was my first introduction to the New Jersey singer-songwriter. After seeing Van Etten open for Junip at Lee’s Palace in November of that year, I was immediately hooked and saw her no less than three times during the promo cycle for that album and several more times in the ensuing years, most recently at Roskilde 2019 … you know, back when live music was still a thing.

Sharon Van Etten is easily one of the best songwriters of the past decade or so and while everything she’s released since then has also been great, I must admit that none of it has resonated with me in quite the same way that that epic has, so I was happy to see that Van Etten is celebrating ten years of epic with a deluxe reissue. Sure it’s a little late, but time doesn’t really have much meaning these days anyways and I’ll take any excuse to revisit a favourite album, especially when it’s loaded up with extra goodies.

The “goodies” in question are, of course, covers of each of the album’s tracks by a broad selection of performers including Shamir, IDLES, and Lucinda Williams, which help to make this re-release of epic just a bit more, well, epic than the original release. Of the new versions, the standouts are Shamir’s stunning version of “DsharpG” and Courtney Barnett and Vagabon’s grungy, Neil Young-esque take on “Don’t Do It.” The biggest surprise of the bunch though comes from the previously unknown to me St. Panther, who transforms Van Etten’s “One Day” into a full on pop song.

But what of the original versions of these songs? Do they hold up all these years later. Yes they do. Very much so. From the opening strums of “A Crime” to the meditative beauty of closer “Love More”, I was taken right back to the first time I heard these songs and reminded that as much as Van Etten has progressed and grown as a songwriter, she was already so good back then.

I always look forward to seeing what Sharon Van Etten’s going to do next, but it’s nice to look back every now and then too. And epic is definitely an album worth revisiting.

Sharon Van Etten’s epic Ten is out now on Ba Da Bing Records.

Roskilde Festival Review: Stella Donnelly, Sharon Van Etten, Søren Huss, Testament, July 4

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Everything | Leave a comment


“Thank you for coming in here,” said Stella Donnelly at the outset of her early afternoon set on the Gloria Stage. “I was not expecting this many people and now I’m shitting my pants.”

While she may have been surprised and perhaps a bit intimidated by a larger crowd than expected, she ended up putting on a fantastic show regardless. In fact, her set ended up being the most memorable show out of the entire day’s lineup. Donnelly came across as charming and funny, both in her lyrics and her stage banter, while also dealing with serious issues in her songs. Highlights of her set included”You Owe Me,” “Boys Will Be Boys,” “Old Man” and “Seasons Greetings,” described by her as a song about spending Christmas Eve with racists. “Never done that intro before,” she added, wondering if it was perhaps a bit too harsh before ultimately deciding it was a “short and sweet” summation of the song. She ended things off by bringing her bandmates up to the front of the stage to sing along with her as she played a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” “I’ve got a special treat for you Roskilde,” she noted. “I’m gonna play it in tune. Didn’t do it at Glastonbury. Fuck ’em.”

It’s not always the case that the first act up for the day ends up being the best thing you see all day, but it absolutely happened for me with Donnelly’s set on the most intimate stage at Roskilde. As it turns out, the intimate vibe and personal songwriting of Donnelly’s show set the tone for the day, with most of the best sets I saw coming from performers who could be classified as singer-songwriters.

Immediately after Donnelly, I wandered over to the Arena Stage to take in a set from Søren Huss, a well regarded Danish singer-songwriter best known for his time fronting ’90s Danish rock band Saybia. Of course, the fact that he sings in Danish and all his stage banter was in Danish meant I didn’t understand a damn word he said, but one doesn’t need to understand the language to appreciate the songcraft.

Speaking of good songs, Sharon Van Etten’s got more than her fair share of those in her repertoire and she played a good number of them, from earlier numbers like “One Day” to newer songs like “Seventeen” and “Comeback Kid” off of her latest Remind Me Tomorrow. The most memorable moment in her set however, came in the form of someone else’s song – a cover of Sinead O’Connor’s “Black Boys On Mopeds” that, as Van Etten pointed out, is sadly all too relevant today decades after it was first released.


Of course my day wasn’t devoted entirely to singer-songwriters and one of the other highlights of the day came from the heavier end of the musical spectrum in the form of Testament’s thrash metal (not to be confused with Donnelly’s debut EP Thrush Metal). The Bay area thrashers ran through a fun set full of tracks from throughout their career, including “Practice What You Preach,” “Electric Crown” and “Low,” which, according to vocalist Chuck Billy, may have made its European live debut at this show. Since the band was playing on the 4th Of July, they played in front of a version of their logo that incorporated an American flag to acknowledge their country’s birthday. That wasn’t the only birthday being acknowledged during their show though – Billy also led the crowd in singing Happy Birthday to the band’s tour manager Nick.

And while we’re on the topic of birthdays, here’s a gift for everyone, even if it’s not your birthday: a video of Stella Donnelly’s “Beware Of The Dogs” recorded live at Roskilde. Enjoy!

Cover of the Day: Pickwick – Ladyluck (featuring Sharon Van Etten)

Posted on by Celeste in Covers | Leave a comment

I’ve always wonder about covers – I’m sure the originator of the song is pleased that another band is playing tribute to them, but is there always anxiety that someone else is going to do it better? I feel a little bad for Richard Swift when I say it, but Pickwick, a garage R&B band out of Seattle, blows his version of Lady Luck out of the water. Honestly though, I feel worse for myself that I won’t be in town when they come to Chicago on April 19th to play Schubas. Check out the single featuring Sharon Van Etten: