On tour following the release of her third album, Tramp (Jagjaguar; 2012), singer/songwriter Sharon Van Etten still manages to maintain an intimacy with her audience that is reminiscent of the type of show you might expect at the small bars and neighborhood venues where the Brooklyn-based musician got her start. Such was the case at her appearance at the Paradise Rock Club on Thursday.
While her lyrics continue to be as sublime as ever, Van Etten seems to be growing both musically and emotionally through her new work. Tramp, much like her 2010 release Epic, is an instrumental departure from the near-entirely acoustic, self-released, first album, Because I Was In Love (2009). Blending backup vocals with keyboard, guitar, drums and harmonium, the album was produced by The National’s Aaron Dressner, and has an impressive list of collaborators including Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak), Matt Barrick (The Walkmen), and Zach Condon (Beiruit).
Yet in concert, Van Etten doesn’t seem to take any of this for granted: joking with audience, calling herself and her band “a bunch of jagoffs,” and ever so humbly thanking everyone for taking an interest in what they do.
Her set list featured songs from both Epic and Tramp, including “Don't Do It,” “Serpents,” “Give Out,” and a beautiful duet with backup vocalist Heather Woods Broderick of “Life of his Own,” which Van Etten explained to one audience member, “is about being an independent woman.” Closing with a track written about a close friend called “Love More,” off of her album Epic, which she played on harmonium with minimal instrumental back up, Van Etten demonstrated to all present that she remains firmly rooted in the truth of her life and of her music.