A few days back, I went to see Sharon Van Etten and The War On Drugs concert at the Avalon in Hollywood. A strange combo! But I am a fan of both, and was excited.
The War On Drugs, who put out one of my favorite albums last year, opened. I saw them headline five months ago at a smaller venue, which was fun. But I think their sound fit this slightly bigger venue a little better. But their momentum, tight on record, is given more expanse on the stage. More specifically, that means a bit more jamming, longer ambient build-ups, phatter bass.
To be honest, I cannot decide if their groove is derivative, or unique. A fine line, I guess! In the end, it does not matter. But original or not, I really enjoyed their noisy, groovy set, once again. And if they come back again in five months… I’m sure I’ll enjoy it then too. Here’s a song from the excellent Slave Ambient:
Sharon Van Etten, who, on the other hand, I last saw at a MUCH bigger venue (opening for The National), was impressive as well. She has a somewhat goofy, self-deprecatory stage presence, which was a little surprising considering sad, emotional songs make up the core of her catalog. Fortunately, this presence does not get in the way of the songs. She can switch focus and deliver a jaw-dropping performance like it ain’t no thing, even after awkwardly talking to the person in the front row (PS. we in the back had no idea what you were saying). Musically, I enjoyed her ability to pull off some of her slower, more drone-like pieces; and her band was also skilled enough to jump on faster ones too.
I did find myself wishing for a couple of songs where she just played acoustic guitar alone. Her first demo recordings are basically just that, and are so beautiful. But the new stuff has opened her up to a much wider palette, and for someone with such a great voice and such great songs, that’s nothing but a good thing.