Sharon van Etten, Angel Olsen, Julien Baker, Quinn Christopherson – Nothing more needs to be said to hype-up The Wild Hearts Tour.
Fans arriving at Chicago’s newest venue, The Salt Shed, on Aug. 10 knew that the concert had an unmissable lineup of incomparable songwriters, and all four artists built upon that excitement to deliver performances that exceeded those very high expectations.
Van Etten walked out onto the stage like a warrior as the voice of Juliette Lewis’ Yellowjackets character, Natalie, emanated from the speakers talking about losing and then regaining her purpose. Standing centerstage with piercing eyes and a “try me” stance, it’s hard to imagine Van Etten ever questioning her purpose, which on this night was to deliver a show that provoked singing, dancing, crying, and goosebumps within each song.
Starting with “Headspace” – from her stellar 2022 album, We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong – Van Etten commanded the space with gravity before visiting Remind Me Tomorrow for a disco-tinted take on “Comeback Kid.” The backing vocals of keyboardist, Lou Tides, shined on “Anything” and “Come Back” while technical difficulties led to an earlier placement of “Darkish” featuring a solo Van Etten accompanied only by her acoustic guitar.
The issue was resolved quickly and the band came back for “Hands” followed by a decidedly cheerful performance of “Every Time the Sun Comes Up.” Maybe it was the unifying clapping and singing or the cool breeze coming-in off the river, but the Are We There Closer had a new layer of airy fun that made it a highlight of the set.
Van Etten played piano as the sun set during “Born” and everyone was encouraged to “Dance like Elaine” during “Mistakes.” Van Etten closed out her set with “Seventeen” connecting with individual fans – by pointing and making eye contact – during every, “La la la la la la la.”
“What a really, really, really fun tour we’ve been on and I’m so happy to be sharing it with you,” Van Etten said amid her set.
Earlier in the evening, Baker also expressed love and appreciation for everyone involved in The Wild Hearts Tour, saying, “I feel so lucky I get to share this tour with these people and musicians. They’re so incredibly talented and sweet.”
Throughout her performance, Baker expertly oscillated between the soft, sad singer-songwriter and a thrashing rock star – at times embodying both simultaneously. Some of the best shredding came during “Tokyo” and the set-closer, “Ziptie,” which started as a murmur before ascending into the full-blown mayhem of a noisy jam.
Christopherson opened the show with a beautifully-sad solo performance of “Raedeen” before being joined on stage by Gracie Gray. His brand new track, “Celine,” about his mom singing karaoke, was a joyful party-starter.
While welcoming everyone to the event and describing the evening’s headliner, Olsen, Marty Lennartz of 93 XRT – which presented the event – pointed out that once you’ve lived in the city you are forever-dubbed “Chicago’s very own.” Olsen famously moved to Chicago to start her career, so the Salt Shed performance was a homecoming of sorts.
In between playing songs like “Big Time” and “Ghost On” – both off her delightfully twangy 2022 release, Big Time – Olsen caught up with the crowd, cracking jokes about weather-defying barbecues and other Chicago traditions.
“We’ve got the show to do and let’s talk afterwards,” she said with a smile before continuing on with a career-spanning setlist.
This tour proves that wild hearts can’t be broken. Instead they band together to harness the power of music, pulling people together to sing, smile, connect, and love.
(Photos by Laurie Fanelli)