Not much funny about Sharon Van Etten at the Cedar
- Blog Post by: Chris Riemenschneider
- February 19, 2012 - 7:31 PM
It’s always a good sign when a way-serious singer/songwriter can laugh at themselves. Justin Vernon was certainly put to that test with “SNL’s” Bon Iver spoof on Saturday. One of his tweets afterward said, “I was red-face embarrassed but laughing my ass off the whole time.”
Sharon Van Etten also had a little fun making fun of her sometimes morose self on Saturday in front of a sold-out crowd at the Cedar Cultural Center. “This is the most uncool song I’ve ever written,” the New Jersey-bred said, introducing “Get Out” midway through the 80-minute set. “I mean that in a good way … because it’s optimistic.”
Touring behind her highly buzzing third album, “Tramp” – which features her Jagjaguwar labelmate Vernon among its indie-rock VIP guests – Van Etten certainly wasn’t the most upbeat act to play the Cedar of late (which is saying something, after My Brightest Diamond and the Pines also played there this past week). Just as the “SNL” skit insinuated about Bon Iver, there were some truly sleepy moments in her 80-minute set, especially during the drab “Magic Chords” and the lackluster finale “Love More.” But Van Etten and her band picked up the pace and volume at times, and she did manage to brighten things up between songs.
Starting with the rolling, march-like opener “Leonard,” Van Etten showed off her cool, wavering voice, which is pretty without ever sounding too precious and dramatic without ever sounding too perturbed. She was helped along this time by the addition of new harmonizing partner and keyboardist/guitarist, Heather Broderick. One other new facet that didn’t help Van Etten’s set: the hopelessly arty, blurred, mostly black-and-white video backdrop, which seemed gratuitous and never really complemented the music in any way.
Van Etten certainly didn’t need any visual help to showcase the bolder arrangements on “Tramp,” which was produced by the National’s Aaron Dessner. “Warsaw” sounded frazzled and powerful early in the set and made a great pairing with “Save Yourself,” and the show peaked mid-set with the new single “Serpents.” Things also got really stormy just before the encore with the new, slow-building gem “If I’m Wrong,” wherein guitarist Doug Keith stroked a cello bow across his Fender Jaguar neck to great effect. A Jimmy Page joke might’ve been in order, but in this case it was seriously epic stuff.
© 2013 Star Tribune