It’s not every night that one gets to watch three female powerhouse acts in one show, but the Wild Hearts Tour is on a mission to make that happen more than 20 times across North America. Billed as co-headliners, Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen and Julien Baker make quite the trio, each equally masterful in their own way. Considering one of the most exciting things happening in entertainment this summer is that there are two bachelorettes instead of one in this season’s “The Bachelorette,” Thursday’s date at the Greek Theatre — with each artist playing in support of a new release — lived up to its promise.
The air was in the 70s and the sun was setting as Baker took the stage, saying simply, “My name’s Julien; I’m gonna play y’all some songs.” She started her set with “Sprained Ankle,” the title track of her 2015 album, and her sweet voice filled the expanse while the rest of the band members took the stage. She then jumped to a song off her latest record, 2021’s “Little Oblivions.” “Bloodshot” got the crowd’s blood pumping with a pulsating drum beat and incredible buildup to the lyrics “take me and tear me apart,” as red lights flashed from behind the band.
Baker further displayed vocal mastery on songs like “Tokyo” and “Favor,” effortlessly hitting her notes and backing away from the mic, just letting her vocals rip. She took a moment to address the crowd while re-starting “Ringside,” confessing “Let me tell you guys something … I’m really nervous, this is the Greek! There’s a lot of people out there.” She hopped on the synth while the next song “Faith Healer” started, which had the audience in front cheering. Her powerful voice during the lyrics “I’ll believe you if you make me feel something” was hair-raising. “Thank you to those who came early and sat through our set and clapped politely” she said to the crowd before introducing the band and heading toward the finish with the banging start of “Hardline” and ending with “Ziptie,” which almost entered metal territory as the sound got heavier and heavier.
Echoing chimes beckoned from the stage as Olsen’s band took the stage, complete with strings and synth. Olsen charmed the crowd throughout her set with funny anecdotes and witty banter. She started with the slow country number “Dream Thing.” “We’re so glad to be here … That sounded lazy [laughs] … We’re so glad to be here,” she said again, changing her inflection this time. Later, “Big Time” showcased her country side with several vocal flips and a powerful finish. Her set was a great mix of fan favorites like “Shut Up Kiss Me” and new songs off her brand new album “Big Time,” which was written during the time Olsen was coming out as queer, and having her first experience of queer love and heartbreak.
While adjusting her guitar throughout the set, she begged for some noise from the crowd so they wouldn’t just gawk at her; the crowd obeyed with hoots and hollers. But the audience was quiet as a feather during the instrumentally sparse intro of “Right Now.” The song grew intensely with the lyrics “I’m telling you right now / right now” with the pounding drum and screeching guitars. “I wrote this song last night. I got really inspired. It’s all about shutting up and kissing, so be quiet,” Olsen kidded before going into “Shut Up Kiss Me.” During “Go Home,” Olsen’s voice was absolutely chilling as the song grew in intensity and stopped abruptly with the lights shutting off. “How many of you are in love? How many of you are willing to admit you’re heartbroken? Well, this song has nothing to do with that,” Olsen said, continuing her banter before starting the dreamy song, “All Mirrors.” Olsen also shared a bit of background on the song “All The Good Times,” a line an ex used on her when breaking up, to which she retorted, “Thank you for the lesson, goodbye … This song lives on.” She finished her set with a strings and piano-forward ballad, “Chance.”
Van Etten commanded the stage immediately with “Headspace” off her new album, “We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong,” which was born out of the pandemic and the idea of the world ending. “Comeback Kid” had a dance-worthy beat and ’80s vibe with red lights backlighting the band then flashing into the crowd. “No One’s Easy To Love” had a goth/Smiths vibe. “How you doing, Los Angeles,” she then said to the crowd. “It’s been a while.” An audience member responded, “Come back more!” — to which Van Etten replied, “Well, I live here!” which garnered a few chuckles. Of the song “Anything,” she told the crowd that she wrote it in L.A. and it was about all the different choices she could have made in life. She picked up an acoustic guitar and strummed along for “Come Back,” a song with beautiful harmonies featuring her backup singer Kristina “Teeny” Lieberson (Here We Go Magic, Teen), who sung below Van Etten matching her vibrato beautifully, singing softly enough for her to shine. The crowd clapped in time for the beginning of “Every Time the Sun Comes Up,” which had gold shining lights directed toward the crowd to mimic the sun.
Courage and vulnerability were definitely themes of the night, carried throughout each set. Van Etten thanked tourmates Baker and Olsen, calling them two of the best songwriters of her generation. She also acknowledged that the tour has raised more than $50,000 thus far for women rebuilding their lives after incarceration through their partnership with PLUS1 and the A New Way of Life charity. She shared about how she and her family moved to L.A. in September 2018 after a tour supporting Bon Iver, and finished her studio in January when the “universe called her bluff” via COVID-19 lockdown. She took her experience in isolation and saw the blue sky and birds in the once-hazy L.A. as a reminder to look at the silver lining. Van Etten showcased her dance moves and invited the audience to join in dance with the catchy “Mistakes” before closing out her set with her hit “Seventeen.”
The tour would not have been complete without some collaboration, so the crowd waited a minute for an encore. Van Etten and her band returned to the stage, inviting Olsen up for their new song “Like I Used To.”
Alaska-based indie artist Quinn Christopherson opened the night, joined by L.A. singer-songwriter Gracie Gray.
Julien Baker setlist: Sprained Ankle, Bloodshot, Tokyo, Favor, Relative Fiction, Heatwave, Ringside, Faith Healer, Hardline, Ziptie.
Angel Olsen setlist: Dream Thing, Big Time, Ghost On, Right Now, Shut Up Kiss Me, Sister, Go Home, Through The Fires, All Mirrors, All the Good Times, Chance
Sharon Van Etten setlist: Headspace, Comeback Kid, No One’s Easy To Love, Anything, Come Back, Every Time The Sun Comes Up, Save Yourself, Darkish, Born, Mistakes, Seventeen
Encore (Van Etten & Olsen): Like I Used To
Photos by Samuel C. Ware