Review: Sharon Van Etten – 20/08/19 – Tyne Theatre & Opera House, Newcastle


Portland Oregon’s Heather Woods Broderick has spent the last eight years as the headliners backing singer but she’s a hugely talented artist in her own right as tonight’s set bears witness. 

Performing tracks like ‘I Try’ from this year’s ‘Invitation’.  There’s also  the beautiful sultry Americana of ‘Wyoming’ from 2015’s ‘Glider’. Broderick is a softly spoken but gifted vocalist and unassuming artist, much in the same vein of her regular employer, who deserves her moment in the spotlight and takes it with aplomb. 

Opening with the brooding ‘Jupiter 4,’ Sharon van Etten takes her place at a keyboard, having relinquished her hold on the guitar for the first time on this year’s ‘Remind Me Tomorrow’, a more experimental and upbeat record. 

She then brings the guitar back out and stands front stage centre. The in-your-face ‘Comeback Kid’ is an apt title for an artist that has just put out her first album in five years and the strobe lights threaten to blind those audience members unfortunate enough to be in their path. 

‘No One’s Easy To Love’ recalls Radiohead’s OK Computer era before van Etten visits her past for the first time with the folksy ‘One Day’ from 2010’s ‘Epic’ album. The appropriately otherworldly ‘Tarifa’ transports us to The Bang Bang Bar, the fictional venue in Twin Peaks. Van Etten so gracefully played it in a cameo on the last series of the cult television show. Meanwhile the ambient jazz vibes of ‘Memorial Day’ take on a whole other dimension in the live setting. 


The haunting epic ‘Serpents’ from 2012’s ‘Tramp’ is the last time the New Jersey born singer will step back in time until towards the end of the set. Tracks like ‘Hands’ – a full frontal assault on the ears and senses. ‘Malibu’ is a widescreen folk song, indicative of an artist very much looking to the future with a sense of hope and newfound clarity as she embraces motherhood and an uncertain world. 

She keeps her on-stage banter to a minimum. However when she does channel those fantastic vocal chords towards talking, it’s to encourage us to look out for one another and to express her frustrations at an America. she can no longer claim pride in her home country and relates it to the UK, where the audience share her concerns. 

A cover of Sinead O’Connor’s 1990 track ‘Black Boys On Mopeds’ is as eerily appropriate now as it was back then. ‘Seventeen,’ perhaps van Etten’s best three and a half minutes of pop rock finds her reminiscing about her past and wanting to send a message to her younger self. ‘Everytime The Sun Comes Up’ from 2014’s Are We There and this year’s ‘Stay’ close a rapturous set before an encore of the humorous and poignant lament ‘I Told You Everything’ and ‘Love More.’ 

Heather Woods Broderick and van Etten show just how connected they are vocally during this part of the night, bringing the house lights down on a quite magical evening.




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