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Sharon Van Etten, Sydney Opera House review: ‘Shy’ star goes ballistic in Australia

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Sharon Van Etten has built a name for herself as a formidable singer-songwriter — but it’s a pigeonhole that does not do true justice to her sprawling sound and her incredible command of a big stage.

The 41-year-old mesmerised Australians with an arresting performance in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall on Thursday, where many may have expected a gentle set of acoustic guitar strumming and wispy vocals from the American.

However, it was clear that would not be the case from the get go.

Guttural, scratchy electric noises rang out as she strolled out on stage and launched into a blistering opening double hit of Headspace and Comeback Kid.

It wasn’t the low key set some had expected — as a heavy, synth-laden sound reverberated around the hall and Van Etten’s powerful voice wailed over the top.

Then the country vibes began with a coda of songs that featured her strumming on a acoustic guitar, hitting stunning falsetto highs and harmonising beautifully with her bandmates.

She repeatedly mentioned how nervous she was and described how “shy” she had been about her dancing before inviting the crowd to cut loose in her “safe space” for awkward bopping.

That nervousness had seemingly evaporated by the end of the set when she launched back into some harder numbers.

She finished with one of her best-known songs Seventeen — message to her younger self that everything will be OK.

She could be seen intensely staring into the eyes of audience members at point blank range and grabbing her band members during the emotive performance.

Any preconceptions about an airy-fairy acoustic folk rock show had gone out of the window. Sharon Van Etten showed herself to be a powerhouse to be reckoned with.

Read related topics:Sydney

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