Sharon Van Etten took top billing at the Paradise on Thursday night, but it was Shearwater that had me crazy excited about a show for the first time in 2012. The Austin collective has lingered on my “must-see” list since I first discovered Palo Santo nearly six years ago, and though this was a somewhat unconventional live lineup for the band – sans Thor Harris and Kimberly Burke – Jonathan Meiburg and company did not disappoint.
Touring in support of the just-released Animal Joy – the most personal, direct set of songs Meiburg has compiled since embarking on a half-decade-long investment in the expansive “Island Arc” trilogy of Palo Santo, Rook and The Golden Archipelago (stream Animal Joy above if you haven’t added it to your collection already) – a no-frills rock band proved to be the perfect companion for the new material. Shearwater’s 45-minute, 11-song opening set was perfectly paced, sliding from straight-ahead anthemic rockers to more atmospheric, dramatic selections.
Despite the presence of more attention-grabbing, head-bob-inducing moments like “You as You Were,” “Rooks,” “Immaculate” and standout Animal Joy single “Breaking the Yearlings,” the set’s more challenging material provided the most impact. The intense vocal performance and instrumental build of the murky “Insolence” and an unexpected noise and feedback breakdown midway through “Pushing the River” stood out as unexpected highlights from one indie rock’s more ambitious bands.
Shearwater and Van Etten have, of course, been closely tied for years. Though SVE once served as her opener’s tour manager, she’s earned headliner status with a series of increasingly confident releases and plenty of time logged on the road. As nearly every blog in Boston will tell you, her set was, of course, thoroughly lovely and enjoyable, propelled early on by “Warsaw” and “Save Yourself” and anchored later by “Serpents” (a track that’s sure stand tall as one of the year’s best months from now).
Between a new day job and getting engaged, life’s been getting awfully real here at FiTi over the last couple months, but now that we’ve got our first show of the year in the books it feels like 2012 has officially arrived. It’s great to be back.
Animal Life / Castaways / Dread Sovereign / You as You Were / Insolence / Rooks / Immaculate / Run the Banner Down / Pushing the River / Breaking the Yearlings / Star of the Age
Sharon Van Etten’s Setlist:
All I Can / Warsaw / Save Yourself / Kevin’s / Magic Chords / Don’t Do It / Give Out / Leonard / Serpents / I’m Wrong / Joke or a Lie // Life of His Own / Love More
Sharon Van Etten: