Sharon Van Etten is a solid example of the tired, but true statement, “Never judge a book by its cover.” In the four years since her album release of Are We There, the indie folk-rock singer appeared in a Netflix series, contributed an original film score, had a baby and is currently in the progress of pursuing her degree in psychology.
“School’s going pretty good,” Van Etten, aged 37, said to a concerned audience member Sunday. “I got a B on my first exam (though and) I can do better than that. Thanks for asking.”
The singer, with her small frame, didn’t immediately appear as a dominating presence on the large stage. Her jet black hair, black leather jacket, fingerless gloves and jeans, along with her bandmates’ black clothes, blended with the stage and the equipment — the most standout figure being a cherry-red guitar.
Despite this and despite the mention of her three-year hiatus from the stage with a full band — though she did recently put on a show in Austin, Texas — Van Etten not only performed as strong as any fan could hope for, but also returned to the stage with previews of her new album, Remind Me Tomorrow, set to be released next year in January.
“Watch me run away,” Van Etten shouted in “Comeback Kid,” as if channeling some inner rebellion that she’s preserved since she was just a fresh college dropout, working at the Red Rose Coffee House and Bistro in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
In the second song of the set, haunting screeches from the keyboard backed Van Etten while she confessed, “Baby, I’ve been searching for you.” In her voice, the singer sounded as if she had been worn down and dragged through the mud but had come back on the other side victorious. Altogether, Van Etten conveyed hints of gothic folk-rock artist Chelsea Wolfe.
If the live performance of her new songs was any indication of the direction Sharon Van Etten is headed with her new album, then it seems she’s moving toward darker atmospheres of folk.