When: Thu., Feb. 16, 9 p.m. and Fri., Feb. 17, 10 p.m. 2012
On the stunning new Tramp (Jagjaguwar), Sharon Van Etten continues to transform herself: once a folk-inspired wallflower, she's now an emotional powerhouse with a sound too big for any one genre. On "Serpents" she channels an unprecedented fury with a kind of spell-casting intensity, her syllables melting into a hypnotic, compelling melody: "You enjoy sucking on dreams," she sings, "So I will fall asleep with someone other than you." Aaron Dessner of the National produced the album, enlisting a strong support cast that provides a sturdy armature for Van Etten's emotional sinew, but that's not to say Tramp has a big, confrontational sound—there are still plenty of delicate ballads like the aching "Kevin" and the ethereal "Leonard." On the latter, Van Etten builds tension by adding one word to the phrase "I am bad" with each cycle of the chorus, finally conceding, "I am bad at loving you." Her voice brings solidity and grandeur to the lovely melodies—she shows impressive range in her overdubbed vocal harmonies, and her baroque embellishments never feel overdone. As effective as Dessner's arrangements are, Van Etten does the heavy lifting, whether she's anchoring "We Are Fine," a kind of self-help song for anxiety sufferers, or injecting smoldering sensuality into the martial soul of "Magic Chords." For this tour Van Etten leads a quartet that includes multi-instrumentalist Heather Woods Broderick, who'll add the harmony vocals onstage. For more on Sharon Van Etten, see Artist on Artist. —Peter Margasak Shearwater opens.
Price: $18, $15 in advance