Sharon Van Etten

-ALBERT HALL, MANCHESTER-

There’s a chance I’ve seen Sharon Van Etten play live once before.

It’s 2014 and I’m in idyllic Wales. It’s the second day of Green Man and I’m riding high on that festival wave of ‘I haven’t showered in longer than is socially acceptable but my hair still looks quite good so I think that evens out the questionable aroma that lingers no matter how many baby wipes I use’.

Sharon Van Etten plays the main stage, Brecon Beacons all around us, sunset in motion.

I…I may or may not be there. It’s 2014. I have no idea who Sharon Van Etten is. I’ve also been drinking rum and coke since earlier than I want to mention in a public forum. Forgive me, music fans – I just can’t remember.

Fast-forward to 2019. I’m in Albert Hall, pal sat to my right, sober as a nun. My attendance is purposeful, built on weeks of listening to Remind Me Tomorrow on repeat, months of catching up with her discography.

After a cosmic set by electronic duo the Golden Filter, Van Etten takes the stage. Leather trousers, white shirt, black blazer – it feels like she’s here to do business. I am okay with that.

And we get into it. I have no expectations and yet somehow she exceeds them. She opens with ‘Jupiter 4’, a slow build that feels a little like a thunderstorm getting closer and closer.

‘Comeback Kid’ changes the pace, ‘Tarifa’ makes me nostalgic but for what I’m not quite sure and ‘Every Time The Sun Comes Up’ makes me wish I had a lighter I could sway with.

But it’s ‘Seventeen’ that cements my Van Etten fangirl status. It’s the ‘hit’ of the album so it feels like a cheat but I don’t care because I’ve long since got over the belief that my music taste has to be cool or lesser known in order to be valid. I look around the room and this is what I see – women on their own bopping along, women with other women, arms around waists, plastic cups in the air as they belt the chorus, the girl next to me enjoying a little sitting down dance. It gets to the middle of the song and Van Etten sings directly to two young girls right at the front of the audience, both of them losing their minds in the best possible way as a woman in a blazer sings a song written just for them.

I don’t know a thing about Van Etten’s politics. I don’t know if she’d call herself a feminist and I don’t know which way she votes. What I do know is that she has the sort of energy that most of us can only dream of, that her performance was hyper-focused and that those two girls on the front row are going to keep that memory with them for the rest of their lives.

So will I.

Sharon Van Etten: Official | Facebook | Twitter

Sara Royle

Former newspaper journalist who has started dabbling in radio. Just returned to Manchester after a stint away in the wilds of Cumbria and hoping to use this reviewing lark as a way to find some of the best music that this lovely city has to offer and meet some creative folks along the way. Find me on Twitter @callmesara