Van Etten approaches the stage, she is in a black lace camisole and black jeans. Her hair glistens in the smoky low-lit hall. A silver band is on her ring finger, reflecting light from her soft strumming on her acoustic guitar.
She makes a remark about her “funny stance,” which is more of a warrior pose. Heather, her back up vocalist and keyboardist, engaged in light-hearted whisperings with Van Etten through out the set.
“What did you say?” Van Etten stops and turns to Heather asking “did you say ‘Can you see my tongue ring?”
“Have you seen my tambourine?” Heather responds with a demure smile.
Van Etten points to the tambourine and they share a laugh. I am starting to feel a little left out of this obvious flirtation happening onstage. Playful and giddy, the two continue to have their side conversation.
” It’s right here, shit!” Heather grabs the tambourine and leads into the next song. ‘Serpents’, a devastating and heavy song from her latest record, ‘Tramp’ (Jagjaguwar, 2012), featured Julianna Barwick on the recording of the album, was transformed beautifully on stage.
The bassist, a mild mannered young blonde man, stood awkwardly until he whipped the bass behind his shoulder to play to the harmonium, an incredible instrument in sound and vision.
The harmonium is manipulated much like an accordion. It is placed on its side, it begins moving like a respirator, slow and elegantly.
“Are you guys ready for another depressing song?” Van Etten asks the crowd, who all cheer emphatically, “or would you rather hear banter?” Again the crowd cheers.
Van Etten makes an astute observation about the couples holding hands in the audience.
“I Love how these sweet couples just sit here, holding hands to a song like ‘Serpents’. Oh Chicago, you are so cute. I love how cute this city is.”
The remainder of her set is a series of sad songs, strummed so lightly, with quirky intermissions that lighten the mood.