Shortly after 8 o’clock last night Sharon Van Etten took the stage accompanied by Heather Woods Broderick in the Swyer Theatre at The Egg. She wore a simple but very flattering black dress and shyly said “Um, hello” into the microphone before slinging her bright red electric (yes, electric) guitar over her shoulder.
Sharon began with “Kevin’s” off of her latest album Tramp and those patrons who were sitting in their seats (and not rudely sauntering in late which happened throughout the set) were soon won over by her honey-sweet rasp. After some deserved applause Sharon quipped “I’ve never played in an egg before.” Two songs later the audience was thoroughly engaged for “Leonard,” one of the strongest tracks off of 2012′s Tramp. Broderick’s back-up vocals proved to be a gorgeous compliment to Van Etten’s harmonies.
Aside: The Egg, located in Albany’s Empire State Plaza, is an awesome venue. It houses two amphitheaters: the Hart Theatre on the 4th floor and the Swyer Theatre on the 2nd. The Swyer is about half the size of the Hart, and with only 450 seats there isn’t a bad seat in the house. It made the concert appropriately intimate considering the two acts.
Before “Save Yourself,” Van Etten got a little anxious and admitted as much into the microphone. “This is when I start forgetting my own lyrics. I know it’s not cool,” she said with a nervous laugh. The crowd chuckled and clapped encouragingly. During “I Fold” she stumbled over a lyric and subsequently tripped up Broderick. The two exchanged smiles before Van Etten resumed where she left off singing “Am I losing time?” adding “Yes I am.” Though a mistake, it was the most humanizing and charming moment of her set.
Surprisingly, Sharon Van Etten was able to balance her emotionally heavy set with her own brand of awkward but endearing humor. She prefaced “Tornado” with “I heard this song in Texas, for those of you who care about Texas,” and “I Fold” with “This song is about moving into my parents’ house in my 20′s and trying to be okay with it.” After playing her standout single “Give Out,” she said that when she first started playing folk music with her short hair friends would call her the “female Conor Oberst” eliciting a boom of laughter. She said she had yet to tell Conor to his face though.
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Conor Oberst’s set began with a swell of clapping followed by an eerie silence as he picked up his guitar. He began to play “The Big Picture” without saying a word. In fact, he didn’t say much of anything outside of griping about the acoustics and one flat-sounding guitar for the first few songs. He would play a song, stoop down to sip his drink, push his hair behind his ear and start another song.
Aside: Both Sharon Van Etten and Conor Oberst have grown their hair out. Oberst now looks like a petite early 90′s grunge singer.
Despite his somewhat chilly demeanor early on, Conor warmed up by the end of “Ahead of the Curve.” Unknowingly, he made the same joke that Sharon Van Etten made about playing in an egg. He then went on to describe how “surreal” his experience at The Egg had been – running into Italian ballet dancers that were performing upstairs. He called the venue “something different and special.”
Oberst was joined on stage during “Lenders in the Temple” by Ben Brodin who stayed on for the rest of the set enriching songs with xylophone, slide guitar, lead guitar and piano. Conor’s renditions of “Classic Cars” and “At the Bottom of Everything” that followed got the crowd amped. After “At the Bottom” he gave the story behind “Soon You Will Be Leaving Your Man.” His brother came home to tell him one day that he was really into a girl but she was basically engaged to another man. Conor replied to his brother (smirking on stage), “Well, umm, that’s terrible, but it doesn’t really matter that much.” The crowd rolled. According to Conor, the girl’s relationship dissolved and she ended up marrying his brother.
Aside: It was around this time ten to fifteen people were filing in and out between every song presumably to go to the rest rooms; it was like a convention of acorn bladders. Conor joked that it would not offend him a bit if people go needed to go to the bathroom as he had played a show recently where he really needed to go and couldn’t. His dry delivery made it difficult to tell whether or not he was being facetious.
Near the end of the show Conor said something to the effect of his set being a weird lot of long, slow tracks. Some moron in the crowd (who had trouble keeping quiet earlier on in the night) jokingly yelled “Worst day of my life!” Conor replied wryly: “Yeah, well sometimes you’ve gotta get really bored to know you’re havin’ fun.”
The encore was a welcomed departure from the slower set with two wonderfully powerful performances of “First Day of My Life” and “Waste of Paint,” the latter of which was requested earlier in the set by a tasteful fan. After Oberst said his thank yous and waived, the audience stood up and clapped and clapped until the lights came on and the ushers opened the doors.
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Sharon Van Etten
2) “Have You Seen”
5) “Save Yourself”
6) “I Fold”
7) “Give Out”
8) “All I Can”
Aside: She’s totally adorable.
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1) Bright Eyes – “The Big Picture”
2) Bright Eyes – “Arienette”
3) Bright Eyes – “White Shoes”
4) Monsters of Folk – “Ahead of the Curve”
5) Bright Eyes – “I’ve Been Eating (For You)”
6) Conor Oberst – “Lenders in the Temple”
7) Bright Eyes – “Classic Cars”
8) Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band – “Ten Women”
9) Bright Eyes – “At the Bottom of Everything”
10) Bright Eyes – “Soon You Will Be Leaving Your Man”
11) Bright Eyes – “Southern State”
14) Monsters of Folk – “Map of the World”
15) Bright Eyes – “Laura Laurent”
16) Bright Eyes – “Ladder Song”
17) Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band – “Breezy”
18) Bright Eyes – “Lime Tree”
19) Bright Eyes – “First Day of My Life”
20) Bright Eyes – “Waste of Paint”