Basking in the spotlight of the old Spanish-Gothic interiors of the Theater at the Ace Hotel, Nilufer Yanya and her touring band rumble softly into the beginnings of “Keep On Calling”, an ode to disappointment in a failed lover. Yanya’s husky, rich voice easily dances across the stage and bounces off vaulted ceilings, backed by the wispy vocals of her saxophonist Jazzi Bobbi, and in the moment, everything feels like a one-two step from the audience seat.
Yanya is brief with her stage banter, yet it is anything but curt. Ignoring the call of a raucous, “Who are you?”, she thanks everyone for coming out to see her, and for Sharon Van Etten’s support, and pushes on into “Thanks 4 Nothing”. As I revel in the soft rock of the drums, it becomes clear to me that Yanya’s vocal talent is something to behold, impressive to even the classically-trained ear. She forges it the best in her last (and my favorite) song, “Heavyweight Champion of the Year”, challenging her range to something almost like a mild yodel (in the best way possible). But what is most telling about Yanya’s live performance style is how she gives way for the saxophone solo to shine through “Melt” and “Baby Blu”, and implements a strong synth to complement the drum line of “Safety Net”. No Yanya track would be extant without the band.
Had I not been anticipating Sharon Van Etten for so long, I would have been content with Yanya and co’s opening act as the headlining performance of the night. It would be an understatement to say that I am impatiently awaiting the March 22 release of her 2019 debut full-length album, “Miss Universe”.
Sharon Van Etten
Let’s all pour one out for how incredible of a woman Sharon Van Etten is. It’s been almost 24 hours since the show yet I still feel deeply moved by her vulnerability, passion, and genuine gratitude. Of course, her voice is phenomenal but her sincere, fierce personality is what identifies her as such an incredible artist and woman. She is bold and not afraid to communicate what is on her mind, even if what she has to say is raw and painful. I applaud her for setting an example of the confidence every 21st-century woman should strive to embody.
Sharon graced the stage in the HOTTEST red velvet two-piece suit looking like a straight boss; she did not come to play! As she walked out ready to open her show with “Jupiter 4”, I turned to my friend and fellow KXSC staff member, Claire Bai, and said “oh shit”, because I knew Sharon was about to pop off. The anticipation I had for this show was matched with such radiant energy from both Sharon her band. Every person on stage brought a unique presence that electrified the audience. When I heard the band start to play the intro to “Comeback Kid” I felt tingles run through my body; I was curious to see how Sharon would deliver this song. Would she just sit there and sing or would she demand the attention of the audience through her bold movements, jumping, and dancing? It was the latter of course; the whole show was the latter. Even her most slow and emotional songs like “I Told You Everything” and “Malibu” still evoked such power through the sheer strength of her voice, you could feel her genuine emotion with every note she hit.
The part of her show that really pierced my soul was her performance of “Seventeen”. Now if you know me then you know how much I love this song. It’s been over a month since this song came out, yet I still somehow cry every time I hear it?? Like wow, Shannon, you really knew how to articulate our struggles with our identity and put them into one phenomenal song. As she faced the audience with such emotional exposure, she poured out her soul onto the stage with each word she sang. The peak of her performance was when she grabbed the mic, bent over with her hand on her chest, and practically yelled, “Afraid you’ll be just like me,” which drove the audience nuts!! She even said it best herself after her performance when she paused and looked into the audience saying, “I have a feeling we would all want to hug our younger selves right now.” Yes!!! I wish I could go give a big hug to little seventeen-year-old me and also tell myself to stop being a DICK to my parents. What was even more tender was when she noted how great of a parent it takes to a raise a child like her and all of us, even stopping to thank her parents who were in the audience. It truly does take an amazing mom or dad to take a step back and let their kid make mistakes knowing that they will eventually learn and find themselves.
Sharon continued to echo her gratitude by also thanking her producer, band, manager, parents, the girl at her merch table, her partner, you name it. She made sure to remind us all that she would not be here without the giant team that has elevated her into the position she is in, which served as a great reminder to all of us to be thankful for everyone we have in our lives. I truly am in awe at how kind of a woman and musician Sharon Van Etten is. Wrapped around the raspiness of her voice, her music is earnest and heartfelt without being too corny or cheesy. As a performer, she knows how to control a stage and put on an emotionally moving show. But most of all, as a woman, Sharon proves that not only can you be a badass musician but also a dope mom raising a kid while on tour! Kudos to you, Sharon, for doing it all! I hope to be as amazing as a mom and woman as you one day.
- Claire Bai & Olivia Osborne, Staff