August 22, 2022

Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen, and Julien Baker played Central Park's SummerStage

The Wild Hearts Tour staring Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen, and Julien Baker wrapped up on an epic Sunday evening at Central Park's SummerStage.

An iconic line-up of some of today's best songwriters made The Wild Hearts Tour one of the most impressive shows of the summer and gave each star their own platform to display their incredible talents for a night of killer rock tracks, twangy country ballads, and synth-pop bangers. 

Julien Baker kicked things off right at 6:30 and wasted no time to pack in as many tracks as she could in a shorter-than-average set, but still dazzled the crowd with her evolved song craftsmanship. Staring off solo, she played a delicate version of "Sprained Ankle" before the rest of her band joined her to unleash big hooks and thundering percussion to give her songs more depth and texture. She barely spoke between songs and pulled out all the stops for her golden-hour set time, relying on her epic, post-rock riffs to make up for the lack of stage lighting that's helped upgrade her production qualities on recent tours, and she not only delivered, but really set the crowd ablaze early in the evening. "Ringside" and "Faith Healer" took things up a notch and Baker thrashed her guitar with power and fury which got huge applause from the fans who packed in early to not miss a second of the stellar show. Little Oblivions made up the majority of the set, but she threw in the stand alone single "Tokyo" as a deep cut. For her last track of the evening, the backing bands from the other acts on the tour all came out to dance on stage in celebration of the last stop and it was a theme that would be repeated throughout the night.

Angel Olsen took the second spot of the night and opened with "Dream Thing," setting a meditative mood under her spellbinding, velvety vocals. Backed by the Big Time Band, Olsen's sound was rich and sweet, blossoming with country charm, making each track sound epic in scale and was matched with glowing lights to embrace her golden sound. "Big Time" sparkled with endless joy, the twang ringing out over the cool summer air, highlighting the beauty of the moment which Olsen noted through her own unique, honest joking manner. Matching overalls and jumpsuits in a rainbow of color made the band pop on stage as well, adding more to the new, enriching sound of her latest record. She told the crowd that she wrote a brand new song while her band was out in the city today only to reveal it was a tease as she busted into the emphatic, pumping "Shut Up Kiss Me," which was met with laughter and surging cheers. Things took a turn towards the Twin Peaks synth-noir stylings for "All Mirrors," a song that still sounds resilient and stunning even when played along with her springy, buoyant shift to country on her latest record. "Y'all ever get mad?" she asked as she giggled and launched into "All the Good Times." On theme, the rest of the bands came on stage with Julien and Sharon taking the front corner so Olsen could sing directly to them for "thanks for the free ride and all the good times," a loving nod to their time on tour together. It was a splendid and euphoric sendoff and a true joy to see the love and appreciation that the three appear to have developed on tour.

Closing out the night, Sharon Van Etten brought the goods for a triumphant, lavish finish that felt exuberant and full of power. Taking the stage to a monologue from Juliette Lewis' character Natalie on Showtime's epic hit Yellowjackets,  it was instantly clear that this was indeed going to be a rather epic set after two already fantastic performances. Thick smoke filled the stage as bold colors provided a phenomenal setting for her lush new songs. "Headspace" and "Comeback Kid" brought immediate energy and revved up the audience as Van Etten's crowd command felt domineering and direct. Electronics embedded in rock grooves, Sharon's songs felt massive and ready for the big stage in the iconic setting. "Come Back" was a roaring anthem that surged with purpose. In an interesting twist, she changed up her phenomenal track "Every Time the Sun Comes Up" and played it in the style of New Order, again bringing out a more synth-driven sound that gave the song new life. Even if wasn't the version expected (or perhaps the one many wanted to hear), it was a fun new version that showed the range of Van Etten's song-writing talents. The love amongst all the women on this tour was non-stop and Sharon was especially grateful as she brought the tour to an end. Her new one-two punch of "Mistakes" into "Seventeen" made for an epic close to her set, the first giving the crowd the chance to move and dance like Elaine (something encouraged by Sharon) and the later an anthem-level rock number that saw her give every last ounce of herself to the night. For the encore, she returned and dedicated the acoustic number "Darkish" to her husband and father of her child before acknowledging $1 from every ticket went to Plus1, an organization that supports people rebuilding their lives after incarceration. For the final number, Sharon invited Angel and Julien back to the stage for a life-affirming rendition of my favorite song of 2021, Olsen and Van Etten's "Like I Used To." Again, with their bands on stage with them, the three proved that they're all on top of their games and this tour seems to have only made them all stronger. Watching them play this track with such glee and absolute enthusiasm was moving beyond compare and brought tears to my eyes. Seeing it all come to a close was bittersweet and it felt special to see the last stop on such an extraordinary tour, one that will surely becoming legendary in the years to come.

Set lists:

Julien Baker

"Sprained Ankle"
"Relative Fiction"
"Faith Healer"
"Everybody Does"

Angel Olsen

"Dream Thing"
"Big Time"
"Ghost On"
"Right Now"
"Shut Up Kiss Me"
"All Mirrors"
"Go Home"
"All The Good Times"

Sharon Van Etten

"Comeback Kid"
"Come Back"
"No One's Easy to Love"
"Every Time the Sun Comes Up"
"Like I Used To" (with Angel Olsen and Julien Baker)

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