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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sharon Van Etten, the woman that rains

Sharon Van Etten. La [2] de Apolo, Barcelona, September 29th

A lightning voice in full.
Photo: Bloodbuzzed
It was raining all day, something unusual in Barcelona, and a very inviting occasion for introspective and moving, great music. Adjectives that are the perfect definition of Sharon Van Etten's songs. Haunted by "Tramp", among the best records of the year, her mesmerizing voice and the terrific gig she gave at Primavera Sound 2012, there was no option: I had to be there, on the front row.

A change from the biggest stage of the Festival to a small venue was a significant one. Would that affect the sound? Some concerns were also on the place itself: I have had wonderful but also absolutely forgettable experiences at La [2] de Apolo, so when I saw the stage was set for a full-band show my doubts were increasing. How would it sound?
Sharon at La [2] de Apolo.
Photo: Bloodbuzzed

The epic and heart-drenching "All I Can" opened the gig on a heavily-charged way. With "Warsaw" following immediately, gone away were the sound concerns. And after the country-tinged "Save Yourself", the first highlight of the night arrived: "Leonard". Goosebumps. And let's admit it, a couple of tears. Hearing that tune in front of Sharon is devastating, something only the best musicians can achieve with their work. The spark was lighted.

"Ask" was another jaw-dropping ("trying to get the balls/but it hurts too much to ask", what a line), seconded by the marvellous "Magic Chords" where Sharon's voice gets moody, nocturne, ready to kill and be killed. It was raining outside, but nothing compared with the torrent of emotions pouring inside Apolo.

Kneeling at the end of "I'm Wrong".
Photo: Bloodbuzzed
Next came the almost solo moment (just helped on backing vocals and a second acoustic guitar), that being honest was the most forgettable number of the night, quickly eclipsed by more stand-outs from her still short but already impressive career. "Don't Do It" from "Epic", with its never-ending (thankfully) chorus and "Give Out", another stand-out from "Tramp", as desperate as mind-blowing. In between, Sharon and Co, played "Kevin's", with a previous attempt of chatting with the audience while she tried to explain what was the origin of the tune. Needless to say, she couldn't. But we all understood.
The setlist.
Photo: Bloodbuzzed

The intensity, machine-gun calibre of "Serpents" was a bursting and bitter counterpoint to the previous song, serving also as a perfect propeller to the ethereal "I'm Wrong" with a near psychedelic end that seemed to close the show. By that time Sharon had also achieved a sort of communion with the audience, she looked bright and cheerful (which is remarkable considering her lyrics) so we didn't wait much for an encore. "One Day" and "Love More", both from "Epic" showed her folkiest side. Compared with the level of intensity showed before, it wasn't the best of the endings possible... but that's not a complaint. Just a reminder of how spectacular and touching Sharon's music can be. As Ryan Adams' song says "damn Sam I love a woman that rains".

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