Staring out across the sea of people crowding an outdoor band shell in Austin, Sharon Van Etten practically dared her audience to pipe down and listen as she held long, cooing notes. She had the guts to trot out tiny delicacies like the spare ballad "Kevin's Way," complemented perfectly by the gorgeous backing vocals of Heather Broderick.
When I saw her at SXSW in 2010, she slunk shyly onstage at a church to tentatively sing breathtakingly fragile songs from her breakthrough album, Because I Was in Love. It's almost impossible to comprehend the transformation she's made since then. At NPR Music's showcase at Stubb's on Wednesday night, she flexed her songs' newfound muscle without obscuring the beating heart and raw nerves that lie beneath. The wounded acoustic material of her first album has given way to "Serpents" (from this year's mesmerizing Tramp), the bracing and caustic rocker with which she closed her performance. With its rigid, driving beat behind her vocals, the song fully captured many of Van Etten's newfound identities: frontwoman, bandleader, stealth rock star.
Producers: Amy Schriefer, Robin Hilton; Video by: XI Media; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait
- "All I Can"
- "Give out"
- "In Line"
- "Magic Chords"