Sharon Van Etten
- Arusa Qureshi
- 22 August 2019
American indie singer-songwriter shines at the Edinburgh International Festival
When Sharon Van Etten was in the process of recording her follow-up to 2014's stunning and urgent Are We There, she was also acting in shows like Netflix's The OA, studying for a degree in psychology and busy having her first child. With this in mind, Remind Me Tomorrow can be viewed as a product of change in her life, with the album featuring Van Etten's trademark stormy guitar chords and darker undertones, but with added elements of optimism and strength, exhibited perhaps most clearly in its shift to heavy synths and other electronic instrumentation.
For her sold-out performance at the Edinburgh International Festival, Van Etten opens with the new album's cinematic 'Jupiter 4', which whirls menacingly around the grand Leith Theatre with its electronic drones. Other singles from Remind Me Tomorrow, like the punchy and powerful 'Comeback Kid' and the dynamic nostalgia-laden 'Seventeen', which Van Etten closes her set with, are clear highlights in the way that they exhibit an unbounding sense of confidence. Van Etten is known for the intensity of her live performances and her ability to captivate with the emotional ebbs and flows of her tracks, and tonight is no exception as she loses herself in the atmospheric ballads, like the gentle 'Tarifa' and shimmering 'Memorial Day', with its wind chimes and deep drone; but also in the fuzz and distortion of tracks like 'Hands'.
Bathed in hues of yellow, when she sings 'Every Time the Sun Comes Up', Are We There's final track, the audience are transfixed by the emotion in her voice and the sharpness of the lyrics, exemplified in lines like 'I washed your dishes, then I shit in your bathroom.' Perhaps the best moment of the night, though, is when Van Etten takes to the stage solo for her rendition of The Proclaimers' 1988 classic 'Sunshine on Leith', an unexpected but hugely popular cover, with the whole crowd singing (and screaming along) with utter joy.
Special mention should be given to opening act Heather Woods Broderick, who also plays in Van Etten's band, and whose keyboard playing and glorious harmonies, especially on tracks like 'Don't Do It', add an extra level and poignancy to Van Etten's already compelling vocals. This is undoubtedly a stand-out performance from a musician who continues to shine, while showing great tenacity and vulnerability with each new release and each individual project.
Reviewed at Leith Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 21 Aug.