Thursday, April 14th, 2011


Sharon Van Etten at The Drake Underground in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangWhen you’ve been through town as an opener as many times as Sharon Van Etten has – four times in just over a year with Rain Machine, Great Lake Swimmers, Megafaun and Junip – I think the hope is that you’ll have garnered enough of your own fans that when you make your headlining debut, as she did at The Drake Underground on Tuesday night, some people come out.

I ended up running a bit late and thus missed Picastro’s opening set but arrived to the sight of the room moderately full, but with a Toronto-typical big open space at the front of the space. Or so I thought, until I got closer and saw that no, it was indeed full, and half the room was sitting on the floor, waiting patiently and politely. That, essentially, was the tone for the evening. Whereas for her previous visits put her in the role of largely having to win over another artist’s fans, this time everyone was here for her and gave her the silence and rapt attention she deserved.

When Van Etten was here last Spring, it was a mostly solo affair but did give a taste of what she would sound like in a band setting when Megafaun backed her for the finale of her set. When her second album epic was released last Fall, it showed the full band configuration had followed her into the studio with stunning results. Unfortunately when she returned fronting a three-piece in November, it was still in the learning curve period for her touring band and issues of mix, arrangement and general familiarity kept the performance from being as good as it could have been.

No such qualifiers were needed on this evening, however, as the months of touring between then and now had worked out any kinks and their performance was a pretty much perfect balance of Van Etten as a solo artist and bandleader, with the bass and drums coming in when needed to push things forward – as they did on the practically rocking “Tornado” – and falling back when not. And as an extra bonus, they were joined for a number of songs by local singer-songwriter Julie Fader – nine months less a day pregnant – who added some gorgeous harmonies to the mix.

But at the core of it all was Van Etten, with a voice that could cut through hearts like a hot knife through butter and songs like maps of precisely where to aim. Opening with a new song – album number three is due out before the end of the year – she laid the first devastating blow a few songs in with “Consolation Prize” from 2009’s Because I Was In Love and through the musical portions of the next hour and some, didn’t let up, alternating between the wounded soul that inhabits Love and the more fiery spirit that informs epic and holding the audience enraptured throughout. In between songs, however, it was Van Etten’s charmingly self-deprecating and often hilarious personality that shone through, bantering with the audience (and mixing up Kenny Rogers and Kenny Loggins) or just talking to herself. She seems somewhat at odds with the soul-bared protagonist of her songs, but the the lightness offers a welcome balance to the darker hues of her work and given the more leisurely pace of a headlining set, allowed her to showcase both sides. And by the time the house called her out for her encore – a cover of Blaze Foley’s “Oooh Love” and an almost too-perfect for words “Much More Than That” – I understood why everyone had been sitting; it was so they could give her a standing ovation.

The Globe & Mail and Panic Manual were also in attendance. The Link, The Daily Cardinal, Interview and Boston Herald have interviews with Van Etten.

Photos: Sharon Van Etten @ The Drake Underground – April 12, 2011
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Love More”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Don’t Do It”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “I Couldn’t Save You”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “For You”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Consolation Prize”
Video: Sharon Van Etten – “For You”

eMusic talks to Laurel Sprengelmeyer of Little Scream about her new record The Golden Record, which has just yielded a new video is available to stream in its entirety at Spinner. She was supposed to open up for Van Etten but instead jetted off to Europe to do the same for Junip. She’ll make it up at The Mod Club on June 14 with The Antlers.

Stream: Little Scream / The Golden Record
Video: Little Scream – “The Lamb”

And speaking of The Antlers, Spinner talks to the band about their new record Burst Apart, due out May 10.

Writers On Process talk to Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg about his writing process.

NPR has a World Cafe session and JamBase a questionnaire with Nicole Atkins.

Spin, eye and Clash have feature pieces on TV On The Radio on the occasion of the release of Nine Types Of Light this week. The hour-long film made alongside the record is available to watch at YouTube and the band will be available to watch at the Sound Academy on April 18.

Video: Nine Types Of Light

The Dumbing Of America interviews A Place To Bury Strangers.

Want to watch that Death Cab For Cutie video that they recorded live while webcasting? Why not. CNN and MTV talk to the band about the experiment. Their new record Codes & Keys is out May 31 and they play The Phoenix on May 18.

Video: Death Cab For Cutie – “You Are A Tourist”

NPR has a World Cafe session and Spin a feature piece on Telekinesis, in town at Lee’s Palace on May 27 with Portugal. The Man.

Sloan will mark the May 10 release of their new record The Double Cross with an in-store at Sonic Boom on May 14 at 4PM, admission free with donation of a canned good. Have you noticed that Sloan pretty much never plays regular hometown shows anymore? It’s always a festival or a special event or something – never a regular show in a regular venue. Not complaining about free, intimate shows – just observing.

MP3: Sloan – “Follow The Leader”

Spinner, The Islington Tribune, DIY and The Skinny have features on Glasvegas, who’ve announced a North American tour in support of album number two, Euphoric Heartbreak, which is out stateside on May 17. I think the May 29 show at Lee’s Palace, for which tickets will be $20 on sale Saturday at 10, will be their first visit since they were here at the peak of their hype in April 2009.

Video: Glasvegas – “Euphoria, Take My Hand”

Ty Segall must really dig Canadian festivals – he was just here last month for CMW and will be back in June for NXNE. He’s currently got two shows on the sched, Thursday June 16 at The Garrison and then the next night at Wrongbar.

MP3: Ty Segall – “Girlfriend”

By : Frank Yang at 8:23 am
Category: Concert Reviews

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  1. Colin says:

    I have observed the exact same thing about Sloan. It’s an interesting strategy.

  2. Bruce says:

    Re: Sloan hometown shows – file that under, “now that you mention it…” Last few times I’ve seen them have all been things like in-stores, WinterCity or other sponsor-enabled free outdoor shows. Maybe they feel over-exposed here, or don’t need the money ; ).

    By the way, according to HMV, the new Glasvegas album is out provinceside as of April 24, but of course you probably knew that!

  3. Frank Yang says:

    I just wonder if they’re deliberately subverting the whole “so how big a room could they play now?” question but skewing the parameters of how many people would come see them and pay for it. And if so, then they’re probably underestimating themselves. I think a proper, full-length career-spanning set would fill at least The Kool Haus, if not larger.

    As for the Glasvegas – Canada tends to get the Brit stuff the same time as the UK release at domestic prices. I think the May release to which the tour dates are pegged is US-only.

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