Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sharon Van Etten Charms Home Crowd at Bowery Ballroom (PHOTOS)

With her growing popularity, it's no surprise that Sharon Van Etten got a warm welcome at her show at Bowery Ballroom on Saturday night. But there was another reason why the endearing singer-songwriter had the crowd in her pocket: the Nutley, NJ native (who now lives in Brooklyn) had a lot of friends at family at the gig, and noted early on in the show that there were "a lot of Van Ettens" in attendance.

Sharon Van Etten with guitarist/keyboard player Heather Woods Broderick.
That's not to say that one had to be a current SVE fan or family member to enjoy the show (which featured Austin band Shearwater as the opening act). Beginning with "All I Can," Van Etten and her band played a nearly one-and-a-half-hour set consisting mostly of songs from her excellent new album "Tramp"(which came out earlier this month). But they also went back to her first full-length "Because I Was in Love"and to the EP that brought her to the notice of a lot of people, 2010's "Epic." (See the setlist photo below.)

One song not on the playlist: after "Love More" (from "Epic"), Van Etten brought the members of Shearwater for a cover of the Stevie Nicks/Tom Petty 80s hit, "Stop Dragging My Heart Around."

Van Etten playing the harmonium.

In the last few years SVE has evolved from a girl-with-guitar singer-songwriter to a more confident recording artist and bandleader, and has been more adventurous with the sounds she has employed in her songs. This has no doubt been helped by her collaboration on "Tramp" with Aaron Dessner of The National (the album was recorded at his home-based studio in Brooklyn).

At various times in the show Van Etten noted the presence of her mother, aunts, cousins, and siblings in the audience. Along with her band, Van Etten shared the stage with a large balloon figure that she was said a birthday present to her from The Antlers (she turned 31 on Feb. 26th, and the audience sang Happy Birthday to her shortly before midnight).

Van Etten alternated between electric and acoustic guitars for most of the show, but also took turns playing the harmonium (above) and at one point played a song on a plastic electronic instrument with a lot of buttons on it, which looked (and sounded) like an autoharp.

Van Etten singing "Stop Dragging My Heart Around" with Shearwater's Jonathan Meiburg.

Van Etten no doubt had a very good birthday weekend, selling out shows on three consecutive nights in her backyard (Music Hall of Williamsburg on Friday, and Bowery Ballroom on Saturday and Sunday). With her growth as a songwriter and increased confidence as a performer, she'll certainly command a larger stage on her next tour. So I was glad to see her in the relatively small room at Bowery Ballroom.

 Shearwater opened with a set of songs focusing on its latest album, "Animal Joy."

Sharon Van Etten setlist (a woman standing next to me snagged it & let me take a quick shot of it).

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