PRIOR to Monday night’s appearance in Hall 2, my companion and I shared our surprise that Sharon Van Etten isn’t yet deemed big enough to headline The Sage’s main room.
The reason, we agreed, is that despite a run of remarkable records and mounds of critical acclaim, the New Jersey native is yet to pen what you’d call a signature song - not a hit single per se, but certainly the type to build a set around.
It was ironic then that the subsequent performance proved she’s had such a number up her sleeve for some time, but in true maverick fashion elected to chuck it in the name of artistry.
Recorded during the sessions for last year’s Are We There album, I Don’t Want To Let You Down had an immediacy and uptempo pomp which would’ve sounded out of synch on the final LP, yet as a standalone track could easily have drawn in a horde of new fans.
One of the night’s high points, it’s belatedly set to be unveiled on an EP this summer, and while some may deem that a missed opportunity, there’s no doubt the eventual album vindicated its omission.
Reeling from the toils of an abusive relationship, Are We There’s fruits were, without exception, magnificent; from the bruised chimes of Break Me to Your Love Is Killing Me’s fragile, yearning catharsis.
There have been few writers in recent years who’ve expressed their heartache in such stark and harrowing terms, a fact further evidenced by similarly affecting old cuts such Save Yourself and Love More.
Backed by her excellent four-piece band, the renditions were nothing short of immaculate, their sonic dexterities brushing up beautifully amid Hall 2’s pitch-perfect acoustics.
Of particular note were Van Etten’s vocals, which throughout the entire hour and a half were flawless.
A sublime natural gift, her tender and weary tones channel the emotions of her songs whether lonesome or harmonised with keys player Heather Woods Broderick - with Serpents especially seeing their voices meld to majestic effect.
In fact. the only bum note came when she (and a sizeable chunk of the crowd) became irked by an individual continuously hollering for I Know; a stunning song for sure, but for God’s sake know when to stop!
Fortunately, it was nowhere near enough to dampen this marvellous show, and while she’s not the type to pursue a quick buck, you sense it’s only a matter of time before she makes the upgrade to bigger halls.