Sharon Van Etten Fills the Gothic with Beauty

Sharon Van Etten Fills the Gothic with Beauty

February 22, 2019 Off By Billy Thieme

“What a beautiful room!”

Sharon Van Etten looked out over a sold-out crowd at The Gothic Theatre Monday night, admiring the art deco design and sensual lighting of the room. I’m sure it looked even more beautiful with the hundreds of beaming faces looking back at her from the packed venue – and Van Etten showed appreciation for all of them all night.

After a four-year hiatus from music – during which she became a parent, a Netflix movie star, and studied to be a therapist (for reals!) – Van Etten dropped “Remind Me Tomorrow,” her “…most atmospheric and emotionally piercing album to date” according to Pitchfork, in January, and showed up in Denver to joyfully – and embracingly – perform much of the tracks from the record for some well-prepped fans. And she rocked every minute of the near two hours she spent on stage.

Sharon Van Etten Remind Me tomorrow
“Remind me Tomorrow” was released in mid-January this year.

Listen to “Remind Me Tomorrow” on iTunes:

Starting with the sorta goth/sorta Gary Numan-synth-based “Jupiter 4,” with its pulsing, ominous feel, she immediately grabbed hold of everyone on the room, slinking across the stage in her sleek blue velvet topcoat and sleek leather pants that matched her jet-black hair. Her voice, simultaneously empathetic and merciless, was the hook that gouged every eye and pulled its gaze directly onto her, no matter where she went.

The show continued in the vein – through the anthemic “Comeback Kid” (I swear I was remembering Kim Wilde for more than a few seconds during that one), into the machine-graced “No-One’s Easy to Love” – easily mesmerizing the place in three songs before she uttered her first “Hello.”

Van Etten knows how to write a song… but it’s her voice that kills.

Van Etten knows how to write – her tunes always come right up to something Cohen-esque, and they end at exactly the right second, exactly the right feeling – every damned time. But it’s her voice that kills. At one moment smokey and deep, resonating right in the midst of your root chakra (or, for the kundalinically unfamiliar, at the base of your spine) and all the way around up the front, and the next moment high and light, wavering up in the stratosphere and vibrating the follicles on the top of your head. But it’s a voice that’s never out of control, never unwelcome, and always powerful.

By the time she’d gotten about two-thirds through her set, following the defiantly sexy “You Shadow,” the summery “Malibu,” and “Hands” – another anthemic piece – Sharon Van Etten silenced the room with a cover of Sinéad O’Connor’s “Black Boys on Mopeds.” She then followed on with “Seventeen,” and the explosion of “Every Time the Sun Comes Up.”

Taking an audience captive takes effort, no doubt. But taking them somewhere off the planet, and bringing the entire building along, and setting them back down such that they don’t likely remember they even left, that takes talent, and love. And Sharon Van Etten showed us that easy Monday night that she has both, and she knows how to use ’em.


  • Billy Thieme

    Aging punk rocker with a deep of all things musical and artistic, enough to remain constantly young and perpetually mystified. Billy has journalistic dreams, but of a decidedly pastoral, Scottish nature.