I fell hard for Sharon Van Etten with the release of her perfect album Tramp back in 2012. This is her third time in Toronto since the release of Tramp and has since released the sweet album Are We There. I got my paws on Are We There the minute it came out, giving it a few listens, but not much more than that. It wasn’t until the day of the Opera House gig that I really gave it a listen. The album’s fuller and more thought through than its little siblings with a particular sadness Van Etten isn’t afraid to show.
Van Etten and company played an incredibly tight set. Van Etten’s banter is sweet and awkward. Her clothing is floppy and her hair is cut short like a little boy. Before she played the song “Break Me” she asked the audience if they’d buy a mug that read, “Break Me”. The audience seemed a bit confused as to why she’d ask. Much of her banter was run on sentences and incomplete thoughts – she had mentioned the name Randy and began listing off famous Randys she was familiar with. The audience yelled “Randy Bachman” in response and Van Etten very unfamiliar admitted she had no idea who that was. Guess Who mutters were yelled, but she didn’t get it.
The show was very much in promotion of her new album. She drew only two or three songs from the vault, one of them being a favourite of mine, called “Serpents” from Tramp. Surprisingly, it was the only tune from Tramp played the entire evening. Drawing from the 2010 album Epic, the band played the song “Don’t Do It,” which featured a very eerie acapella intro that reminded me a ton of Elliott Smith’s “King’s Crossing.”
Despite Van Etten’s Instagram raves about New Zealand band Tiny Ruins, I couldn’t get into their live set. They sounded amazing recorded when given a pre-concert listen, but I found them to be a bit too snoozy. I spent their entire set recounting to myself all of the gigs I’ve seen at the Opera House in the past.