During the latter half of Sharon Van Etten’s set, she exclaimed her joy over the quality of the Friday evening’s lineup. “It’s a killer bill. Nilüfer Yanya! Lucy Dacus!” and despite purposefully mumbling her own name at the end, the crowd couldn’t help but agree. Van Etten repeatedly described her worry about the almost five year hiatus from music dampening her impact on crowds. She spent her time away going back to school, acting, and becoming a mother: all of which have informed her grand return Remind Me Tomorrow and re-solidified the strong connection with her audience. Sharon Van Etten’s worries were clearly for not, especially in Chicago, as she sold out two nights at Thalia Hall and delivered an emphatic and memorable performance.
The killer bill started off with the supremely talented Nilüfer Yanya. I had the pleasure of seeing her at Pitchfork Music Festival last year and was completely blown away from her sound. Her songs are guitar forward melodies that underline her simple yet completely engrossing lyricism. “Baby Luv” in particular stands tall as one of her more instantly recognizable songs. Yanya’s enveloping voice details the end of a relationship as she shines brightest during the multifaceted chorus of “do you like pain?”.
Yanya and her band’s stage presence beams with confidence as they treated the crowd to some new songs from her upcoming debut album Miss Universe. “In Your Head” is catchy as songs get, with Yanya circling around thoughts that pop up in relationships. She maneuvers through these universal themes with poise and a personal perspective that really drives them. She ended her set with “Heavyweight Champion of the Year” which builds to boisterous end that left Thalia hall needing more.
Lucy Dacus followed with a set that rivaled her solo appearance during the boygenius show a few months back. “I’m getting paid to see the Shaon van Etten show” she said, looking relaxed and completed in charge before diving into a slew of her amazing songs. While “I Don’t Want to be Funny Anymore” may have been the song that shot her into the spotlight and continues to be a highlight of her sets, the crowd made it incredibly clear that the rest of her output is loved just as much.
Whether it was a heart-wrenching unreleased song that she asked the crowd not to record or some of the best songs off Historian, Dacus and her band sent the crowd into an emotional frenzy. The peak came with “Nightshift” where Dacus belts out painful lyrics of post relationship ills that had the crowd cathartically singing along. It’s quickly becoming the most anticipated song in her sets and I am definitely one of those eagerly waiting for it. Dacus ended her set with “Historians”, a near perfect end to her wonderful set.
By the time Sharon Van Etten reached the stage, after her band filled their respective spots on stage, the crowd was going wild. There was no telling that she had stepped away for any time, immediately taking to her mic and commanding the crowd like the astonishing talent she is.
Every song off of Remind Me Tomorrow was represented in her set, really giving the album a chance to wrap up the crowd in her nuanced sound. The pulsing rhythms of “Comeback Kid” and its echoing chorus moved the crowd while the more haunting and atmospheric sounds of “Memorial Day” lulled fans into a meditative high. Van Etten throughout switched between guitars and just tackling her vocals with all her might, creating particularly transcendent moments during Are We There Yet‘s “Tarifa”. Even with one moment where her mic experienced some crackling, Sharon Van Etten’s set felt utterly perfect in its forthright presentation.
Towards the middle of the night, Lucy Dacus lent her vocals to Van Etten’s cover of the Sinead O’Connnor track “Black Boys on Mopeds”. Van Etten sat at the keyboards and gently serenaded the crowd with the incredibly affecting track, playing heavily into the world she has released her latest album. It’s wrought with the themes she has been tackling in Remind Me Tomorrow, channeling hardships of motherhood as she does in her own “Stay” (which she would play a few songs later), and felt perfectly placed in her set.
The rest of her performance continued on with fantastic and crowd pleasing songs. “Seventeen” explosiveness and unrelenting pop aesthetic bursting into place with Van Etten wonderful yells, while “Everytime the Sun Comes Up” had the crowd emphasizing some of the songs more iconic lines like “I washed your dishes, but I shit in your bathroom” by singing along and cheering wholeheartedly afterwards. While the song has jokey origins, Van Etten’s delivery of such mundane personal moments elevates them to beatific heights.
The night ended with an encore that certainly acted as a cherry on top of the evening. “I Told You Everything” began the final set with its more serious and mysterious mood while “Serpents” blew through the venue with its explosive and experimental edge. Before long, Thalia Hall was whisked away with “Love More”, a deeply layered song condemning a toxic relationship and results in learning to love for the better. Sharon Van Etten continual stride for something better left Thalia Hall full of joy with the powerful performance.