Live Review | Sharon Van Etten and Shearwater at the Paradise

Sharon Van Etten – Serpents

Sharon Van Etten and Shearwater stopped by the Paradise on Thursday evening to play two great sets in support of their newly released albums. Sharon Van Etten’s third studio album Tramp was released February 7 and already has a slew of positive reviews and new fans. Van Etten has been solidly releasing new music and touring over the last few years. But with the release of Tramp, Van Etten has finally established herself as one of the best female folk artists in the industry today. And her tour is a perfect example of that.

I’ve seen Sharon Van Etten perform three times total. The first was in 2008 when she

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opened for The Wooden Birds and Great Lake Swimmers. And the second was last spring headlining at Brighton Music Hall. And while Sharon Van Etten is always down-to-earth, charming and adorable, Thursday night at the Paradise was the first time I’ve seen her trade her usual shy and modest look for red lipstick, slouchy sweater and longer wavy hair. It’s true: Sharon Van Etten is a babe.

In addition to her changed look and new music, the show featured videos and images projected on a screen behind the stage. Van Etten played just about every song off of Tramp a well as a few old songs (Don’t Do It and Save Yourself.) But despite the added background drones and acoustics on her new album, each and every song translated perfectly live. Serpents was by far the loudest song of the night, and even Sharon admitted afterwards that it’s the one song that feels so good to play, she could just play it all night. Someone in the audience piped up saying we all wouldn’t mind. “Don’t tempt me,” she replied.

Overall, Van Etten really can’t go wrong this 2012. In a year which has already had more than a few really solid releases, Van Etten’s got one of the best. And her live show is really a step up from her past tours. She’s got a bunch more North American and European tour dates through the spring. If she’s coming to your city, you definitely want to check her out.

Austin natives Shearwater also played a solid set opening for Sharon. Their newest album Animal Joy is another excellent 2012 release. Live, each song started slow and built up to a very full sound. Though Shearwater was originally started as an outlet for a few members of Okkervil River’s more chill songs, their sound has developed into distinct layered tunes that are simultaneously chill and distinct. Sharon Van Etten and Shearwater were the perfect pairing for that Thursday night in Boston.