When Sharon Van Etten made her Tiny Desk debut back in the fall of 2010, her voice exuded fragile, gentle grace. Performing songs from that year’s Epic, she huddled around a single acoustic guitar with backup singer Cat Martino to perform a set of tender and evocative folk-pop songs.
Cut to nearly a decade later. One of only a handful of artists to get a repeat headlining engagement at the Tiny Desk, Van Etten has spent the last few years purging her bucket list: She’s become an actress (appearing as a guest star on The OA), released a string of increasingly aggressive albums (the latest of which is this year’s synth-driven Remind Me Tomorrow), toured the world, performed on Twin Peaks, written music for films, become a mom, gone back to school and popped up in collaborations with everyone from Land of Talk to Jeff Goldblum.
So it’s only natural that this Tiny Desk concert feels different; you can hear it before Van Etten and her band even show up onscreen. Its pace set by the ticking beat of a drum machine, “Comeback Kid” is in full bloom here, with a swaying arrangement that fills the room before Van Etten opens her mouth. Backed by a full band — including frequent Van Etten collaborator Heather Woods Broderick, who played the Tiny Desk as a member of Horse Feathers way back in 2009 — the singer performs with considerable intensity here, seething through “You Shadow” before punctuating the set-closing “Seventeen” with a scream that slashes through the office air.
- “Comeback Kid”
- “You Shadow”
Sharon Van Etten: vocals, guitar; Heather Woods Broderick: keys, vocals; Jorge Balbi: drum machine; Devin Hoff: bass; Charley Damski: keys, vocals
Producers: Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, CJ Riculan, Niki Walker; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Executive Producer: Lauren Onkey; VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann; Photo: Mhari Shaw/NPR