Sharon Van Etten‘s early performances in New York were so intimate and raw that the singer/songwriter could be almost uncomfortable to watch as she spilled her guts onto the stage. But her live shows have followed the same trajectory as her recorded output — each effort is a bit more polished and confident than the last, though no less emotionally devastating — and Van Etten live is now a well-oiled machine with a four-piece backing band. On June 13, at the second of three sold-out hometown shows, she played nearly all of the recently released Are We There (highlights being the brutal “Your Love is Killing Me,” and the playful “Every Time the Sun Comes Up”). There were only three older tracks (“Don’t Do It” from epic and “Serpents” and “Give Out” from Tramp, the last of which has made this writer cry on occasion), all of which sounded gloriously huge in the packed venue.
Amen Dunes opened the evening with a set of spare, breezy songs that were compelling though didn’t cut quite as deep as Van Etten’s (most came from the band’s latest LP Love) — which was probably for the best. — Laura Leebove