Tonight’s support comes in the form of Marisa Anderson, and later on it becomes apparent she may have made quite an impression on those early enough to catch her, as the merch stand area becomes rather overpopulated, inconveniently delaying my attempts to order yet another Joker IPA.
While her 35-minute set is rather intense and if nothing else entirely original, it became a bit of a trial towards its conclusion, which is understandable given the set is made up entirely of instrumental finger picking guitar.
Not familiar with her work until now, it was interesting in that the only spoken word featured is a quick explanation of each track as she goes along, but for the most part still keeps a hold of a respectful Art School crowd.
A bit like a more downbeat one man (lady!) band variation on the likes of Gabriela Y Rodrigo, she displays a masterful use of the guitar with a heavy dose of her own personality and emotion thrown in, which is all the more impressive given the lack of vocals.
Entering the fray to many a “Goan yersel Sharon”, the Brooklyn native looks a tad puzzled about the fuss her presence has created, as she begins to slowly strum the opening notes of ‘Give Out’.
It’s unlikely many artists would manage to get away with opening their set on such a downbeat mood, but the truth is it is so beautifully realised on stage that all misgivings are mute.
Indeed, despite the difficult nature of most of the material tonight, she seems in high spirits, continuing to joke around throughout, beginning with some shrugging Sharon shoulder dancing she maintains a silence throughout the opening four numbers.
This is fine, as she simply has an irresistible allure to everything that she contrives, which is never more true than in a live setting.
‘Taking Chances’ has an almost bizarre disco edge to it not found on record, as a throbbing bassline is met with something approaching a cheer by an entranced audience.
Switching effortlessly between tracks from electric to acoustic and then keys van Etten maintains her amusing in between song silence as she tunes her electric guitar for ‘I’m Wrong’.
It is here that it becomes clear that van Etten’s band is more than just a mere backing band, as she motions to her drummer several times and sings in fantastic chemistry with backing her singer.
Then the unthinkable occurs, she speaks!, even van Etten herself, full of humour remarks “Sharon speaks” and goes on to thank everyone, indeed throughout the course of the night she goes from being mute to making sure she thanks almost every person imaginable from the band to her support, to the staff at The Art School “for a lovely meal and taking care of us”.
This amusing banter between songs extends to a competition to see who’s birthday it isn’t following a few shout outs.
Of course such casual joking is in stark contrast to the predominately dark content of the majority of songs on show, which we are reminded by a magnificent ‘Break Me’.
Looking across to her backing singer, who becomes all the more integral as the set progresses, the grand synths played by both women prop up the gloom “I am writing about him, I am writing a song for him”.
Later she returns to a jovial tone as she asks what we are all doing here, to which one weegie responds “I’m burstin’ for the toilet”, to which Van Etten playfully retorts “I hear Glasgow has some of the finest bathrooms”.
As her band departs the scene she goes on to inquire if anyone has any requests, to which someone squeals once again for ‘Serpents’.
Perhaps one has watched The Walking Dead one to many times as again ‘Serpents’ is mentioned along with “for my wean”.
van Etten responds that she can’t play that on her own and eventually gets round to playing ‘I Wish I Knew’ from 2009’s Because I Was In Love.
Having previously warned us she hasn’t played it in a long time the loudest cheer of the night perhaps belongs to the “shit I don’t remember it” uttered half way through as the track is abandoned.
As the band rejoins the fray to many a cheer van Etten remarks that that was a teaser from her first record, which “used to be good”.
‘Our Love’ follows after a short break, which acts as a beautiful reminder of how live performance can at times not only prove cathartic for the performer, but therapeutic for those in attendance also, just fantastic.
Her in the crowd with the wean finally gets her way with an airing of ‘Serpents’, one of the few presents on show not from latest LP Are We There, maintaining the high bar set with all its ghostly majesty.
To close proceedings we are treated to a wonderful rendition of ‘Your Love Is Killing Me’, which is as superbly biting as it is blinding, one would be forgiven for reaching for the hankies as van Etten and her love kill us all once more, rush back for more killing won’t you?
Words: Andy Quigley
Photos: Warrick Beyers