Live Review: Sharon Van Etten

11 June 2019 | 12:39 pm | Catherine Delpero

"The show was a brief escape from the darkness."

More Sharon Van Etten More Sharon Van Etten

It’s Dark Mofo time in Hobart. The festival kicked into another gear last night with the entrancing performance from Sharon Van Etten and her band. The sold out show was like the inviting glow of a fireplace on a cold winter’s night.

Van Etten’s style of music is an eclectic mix of genres. Somehow the blend of alt-country and grunge bordering on goth, with a slight twist of synth-pop, just works. Think Stevie Nicks if she was born in the ‘80s, heavily influenced by Mazzy Star, Cat Power, and perhaps Nine Inch Nails.

Van Etten and her faultless band seamlessly moved from each song to the next, even when some songs were polar opposites. The unifying force in all this was Van Etten’s heartbreaking hurricane of a voice. Perhaps overdramatic at times, with interpretive dance-style hand gestures that indicated it was very much a performance rather than simply a gig. Van Etten was backed vocally by Heather Woods Broderick on keys, who amplified each song with her haunting harmonies intertwining with Van Etten’s commanding vocal presence.

It needed to be a true performance as this was an entirely seated, theatre-style affair. Some patrons were chair-dancing in their seats while others shifted around uncomfortably. At an almost silent break between songs, one man yelled out, “Sharon, can we stand up?” To which the singer replied, “Is it illegal?”

Perhaps the seated crowd did not affect Van Etten’s show – it became a little more intimate without the swell and surge of people moving from bar to stage and back again.   

Van Etten used her microphone like a well worn sword in battle. She knew just where to stand, how to move her mouth and neck on just the right angle to get the best sound out. Her artistry extended to the guitar and piano; during one track she just carried around a set of bar chimes like a handbag.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

While songs off the latest album Remind Me Tomorrow such as Seventeen were winners with the audience, the most captivating track was when Van Etten sat solo at the piano and sang Sinéad O’Connor’s Black Boys On Mopeds. A dedication to her two-year-old son, it summed up the feeling Van Etten wanted us to be left with – love and humanity in spite of all the grim times and uncertain political climate. The show was a brief escape from the darkness. Dark Mofo may actually become the festival of light in the face of the shadows we face.