Sharon Van Etten has been on the road in support of her fourth album for the best part of a year but there’s no sign of tour fatigue just yet.
On the contrary, many of the tracks from Are We There sound more vital live than on record during the first of the Brooklyn based singer-songwriter’s two-night residency at the Brudenell.
‘Your Love Is Killing Me’, the studio version of which is confessionally broken, is here given a gutsier arrangement that seethes with an undercurrent of defiance, and the droning shoegaze of ‘Break Me’, on which she swaps guitar for omnichord, is made impassioned with the spirit of vintage soul.
The way in which the live tracks are re-energised, driven by her four-piece backing band, is also evident on ‘I Don’t Want To Let You Down’. Taken from an upcoming five-track EP, the single is a somewhat plodding country standard. Live, however, it’s turned into a galloping rocker that Doug Keith closes with a flurry of guitar squalls that would make Ryan Adams proud.
It’s a heartfelt rendition that allows the song to sit proud against her older material, of which nearly half the set is drawn. ‘Give Out’, from breakthrough album Tramp, is a cathartic storm of pain while the encore of ‘Peace Signs’, from epic, is like Tom Petty with self-esteem problems.
Far from being a greatest hits set, it’s one that embraces her back catalogue while cautiously mapping out her next steps. ‘Let Me Fly’, a solo track that’s previewed, is an intriguing taster of her future direction in being hushed finger picked folk that maintains her characteristic romantic decay while abandoning some of the classic AOR tendencies of her latest album.
Its emotional intensity, in common with the rest of the 90-minute set, is such that ‘Every Time The Sun Comes Up’ finally makes sense.
A playful country lilt, during which she mockingly serenades keyboardist and harmony vocalist Heather Woods Broderick, it reveals the side of her personality that cheerfully banters with the audience about voice-overs and demonstrates that underneath the lacerating lyrics there’s a steely resolve.
Gig date: April 25