It had been a little over a week of shows at the Salt Shed when the Wild Hearts tour came rolling in. Consisting of Julien Baker, Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen with Quinn Christopherson as an opener, the Wild Hearts cemented just how wonderful a show at the brand new venue can be. The night was full of emotive performances and an atmosphere lasted well beyond the evening’s final song.
Quinn Christopherson opened with a powerful performance, evoking a similar sort of intense evocative lyricism and stage presence that Julien Baker would follow with during her set. “Raedeen,” a song about being raised by a sister and losing her to drug addiction. “We’ll go together” he sang as his face twisted with painful emotion, letting it erupt from within. It’s a devastating track that Christopherson delivers with every ounce of talent within him, instantly connecting himself with the Salt Shed audience. He was joined by Gracie Gray for a few songs, including the great “Celine” that recounts a night out at karaoke with his mother. Although not as emotionally crippling as other songs in his set, “Celine” still holds a strong sincerity that makes Christopherson’s music stand out, especially on such a strong lineup.
Julien Baker followed with a fantastic set. “Sprained Ankle,” the second song off her debut album, kicked things off with a gentle and familiar hug. It’s a short and tender song that is heavy with meaning: from struggling with a relationship, creativity, death, and wanting to do more that you already are. It was the night’s sole song off Sprained Ankle and it felt like the perfect track to move into the Little Oblivions filled setlist.
Baker’s onstage presence teeters between meditative stillness and explosive singing that can leave an audience overwhelmed in the best way possible. Her loud snarls in the middle of songs are drenched in a raw energy that propels her impressive lyricism into stunning heights. The final moments of songs like “Faith Healer” are truly enhanced by Baker’s commitment to her intensity. In fact she only acknowledged the crowd near the end to say “Thanks, y’all” and introduce her band. It was a brief moment where she wasn’t completely entrenched in her breathtaking performance. The set finished off with a beautiful cacophony where she and her band were jamming at their hardest, leaving the crowd amped up for the rest of the night.
With half the night in the rear view and the sun starting to fully set, it came time for Sharon Van Etten‘s show-stealing performance. Donning a sparkling top and leather pants, Van Etten emerged on stage with all the poise of a seasoned performance artist. She and her band were more than ready to blow some minds. And that she did, posing for the crowd with confidence as she belted out “Headspace” before diving into “Comeback Kid.” Both tracks had her screaming out lyrics, much to the joy of the appreciative audience. “Anything” followed, seeing Van Etten donning her guitar.
The set was otherworldly good, giving every song a little extra bit of energy as she engaged with the crowd throughout. From creating a safe space to dance with “Mistakes” to a lovely solo performance of “Darkish,” Van Etten was a powerhouse of a performer. One of the biggest highlights came from “Every Time the Sun Comes Up.” The song is typically a slow and methodical take on mundane things sounding anything but; it’s a jokey song that feels weightier that it is. And yet during this performance it was ramped up. The song didn’t walk but barreled throughout, coming out more dancey and exuberant than ever. It’s finishing mantra of “Every time the sun comes up, I’m in trouble” feeling more than cheerfully mischievous than melancholy, almost more a kin to the song’s origins.
Sharon Van Etten ended her set with “Seventeen,” a song that the crowd was waiting for and knew would eventually come. It was the perfect farewell to her set, reminiscing about her younger days and how far she had come in the following years. It’s a cathartic song that everyone can relate to and this night at Salt Shed, everyone certainly did.
Having spent a good portion of her early career in Chicago, it made all the sense in the world that Angel Olsen would finish off the night. She was magnificent throughout, shifting form her beautiful stage presence while performing songs like “Big Time” and “Lark” to her dry comedic wit throughout. One notable and running joke was the long “I just wrote this amazing song last night” intro for “Shut Up Kiss Me,” It’s easily one of her most recognizable, boisterous, and determined songs. Olsen is at her most resolute on the track, embodying the resilience and urge to not let a relationship falter due to an argument. It’s a show of personal strength on Olsen’s part and it clearly resonated with the attentive crowd.
Olsen’s encore included Sharon Van Etten returning to the stage for “Like I Used To,” showing off the Wild Hearts‘ connectivity quite well. The night officially ended with a cover of Harry Nilson’s “Without You,” which really emphasized the emotive quality of the evening. “No I can’t forget this evening” and with the sea of tote bags reading “I went to the Wild Hearts Tour and all I got was emotional,” there is no doubt that this night was remarkably memorable.
All photos by Julian Ramirez.