As Sunday night’s Sharon Van Etten show was nearing its end, the Red Palace was overflowing with good vibes. The New York-based singer-songwriter was putting the finishing touches on an outstanding set. It was the final performance on an eight-week tour and her usually crystal-clear voice was considerably scratchier and huskier, but it only served to reinforce that Van Etten is more than just a pretty set of pipes, but a penetrating lyricist and dynamic songwriter. There was reverent awe as Van Etten tackled songs such as “Don’t Do It” and “Peace Sign,” with bassist Dough Keith and drummer Ben Lord bringing the dirges bursting to life.
Later Keith took the microphone to tell a genuinely entertaining tour tale about a stop in the Helsinki airport. (It involved him doing an impression of the Swedish chef singing “Happy Birthday.”) People were laughing. Van Etten thanked Keith and Lord for putting up with her for eight weeks and joked that she was surprised they hadn’t fired her yet. Then some in the audience yells...
“BETTER OFF SOLO ANYWAY!”
A moment of silence. Then everyone in the sold-out club let out that “Ohhhh!!!” sound that you may remember from when a student talked back to a teacher in elementary school. Van Etten and her bandmates were silent for a few seconds, standing there in a “did that really just happen?” state of shock. The shouter tried to pass it off as a joke, but it was too late. The poor dudes in the rhythm section looked genuinely bummed. That would be one of the final memories of tour. Good vibes destroyed.
It wasn’t the meanest thing I’ve ever heard shouted at someone on stage, not even close. But all things considered, it may have been the most brutal.