I felt beyond lucky and privileged to be at Central Park SummerStage on Sunday 8/21 for the final performance of the Wild Hearts Tour which featured Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen, and Julien Baker with special guest Quinn Christopherson opening the shows. I got the opportunity at the last minute since our fearless Full Time Aesthetic leader, Kate Hoos, works at SummerStage and ended up being asked to sling merch at the shows. Between that and rushing back and forth to take pics of the artists, she needed someone to step in to help capture the full experience; I could not be more grateful that she reached out to me to write about the final night for this piece. As the Wild Hearts tour tote bags declare,”I went to the Wild Hearts Tour and all I got was emotional,” and that was the truth. So let me (and my fellow Kate) take you on this sentimental journey that was the final performance of this extraordinary tour featuring so many inspiring artists.
Quinn Christopherson began the night solo onstage, laughing as he explained he was going to kick things off with his longest and saddest song. “Raedeen,” a heart-wrenching ballad about losing his sister to drug addiction, immediately introduced Christopherson’s earnest intensity as a songwriter. His collaborator Gracie Gray (on guitar and backing vocals) joined him for the rest of the set, finishing off with the infectious synth-pop tune, “Celine,” written for his mother’s love of karaoke. Christopherson hails from Anchorage, Alaska, a trans man born to Native Parents; his mother is Ahtna Athabascan and his father is Iñupiat, which he proudly proclaimed to the crowd mid-set. His joy onstage, his beautiful voice, and the direct vulnerability of his lyrics make Quinn Christopherson an artist I was excited to be introduced to; I hope to see and hear more from him soon.
Julien Baker took the stage next, blazing through songs from her most recent album, Little Oblivions, as well as a few tracks from her first release, Sprained Ankle; she started off her set with the title song from that first record. The crowd was instantly mesmerized; I was surrounded with people in Julien Baker t-shirts that seemed blissfully transported. While the other Kate is a fan and has seen Baker perform before (see her recent pics of Baker in London), I’m a bit of a newcomer to her music. I was thrilled to see her belting out her heart-wrenching melodies and moving around the stage with an urgent energy. Her prowess on guitar is beyond impressive and there was absolutely no shortage of shreds. She wasn’t much for banter during the set, but she did reflect how bittersweet it was to be playing the final show of the tour. She finished with “Ziptie,” and the stage was suddenly flooded with musicians from Van Etten and Olsen’s bands and crew members dancing exuberantly. Baker flashed the crowd a gorgeous smile before slipping offstage with her “tour family.”
Angel Olsen had the penultimate set of the night; she and Sharon Van Etten have traded the headliner spot on the tour for its duration. I feel a bit late to the party with Olsen; I know her music mostly from the duet she recorded with Van Etten, “Like I Used To,” and Aisles, an EP of eighties covers she released last year (which is extraordinary—her version of Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face”—damn!). But having now seen Olsen live, I will be buying her most recent album, Big Time, when the next Bandcamp Friday rolls around in September.
Olsen and her band were instantly eye-catching wearing jumpsuits in various bright colors, Olsen’s sunshine yellow. Her gorgeous voice mesmerized the crowd, starting off with “Dream Thing.” My favorite song of the set, though, was “Shut Up Kiss Me,” off of her 2016 record My Woman; Olsen’s playful delivery got everyone dancing. She has a wonderful sense of humor as well, joking between songs about how her band had abandoned her that day in pursuit of New York City bagels. She finished off her set with the bittersweet “All the Good Times,” and left everyone wanting more.
But more there was! Sharon Van Etten and band played the final set of the night, and it was revelatory. Van Etten exuded rock star charisma in a sequined top and black leather jeans, strutting back and forth across the stage, reaching to the audience with sultry cat-like charm. She began with “Headspace” from her most recent album We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong, urgently crooning out the refrain, “Baby don’t turn your back to me,” the crowd reacting viscerally, followed up with the triumphant hit “Comeback Kid” off of her 2019 release Remind Me Tomorrow.
Sharon Van Etten
The set was a wonderful mix of songs from her last two albums, finishing off with her poignant and beautiful power ballad, “Seventeen.” Beyond her gorgeous voice and superstar charisma, though, Van Etten exudes warmth. She emotionally declared how much she admired and loved all the other musicians and the crew of the Wild Hearts Tour, and how bittersweet it was to be saying goodbye to the experience (even though she also seemed excited to go home to her partner and five-year-old son who apparently started kindergarten this week).
For the inevitable encore, Van Etten came out solo for the quiet and melancholy “Darkish,” and then called out Olsen for their hit duet “Like I Used To,” which Julien Baker also joined in on special for this show, playing guitar. The stage was flooded once again with every musician from all four sets, and crew members, everyone dancing and singing along, smiling through tears, sad to let the night go, but so grateful for a wonderful summer of the Wild Hearts Tour. When it was all over, I stumbled out into Central Park with the rest of the crowd, drunk on the love of a truly exceptional evening of music.
Scroll down for setlists, fan shot videos and pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)
Julien Baker setlist: Sprained Ankle, Bloodshot, Tokyo, Favor, Relative Fiction, Heatwave, Ringside, Faith Healer, Everybody Does, Hardline, Ziptie
Angel Olsen setlist: Dream Thing, Big Time, Ghost On, Right Now, Shut Up Kiss Me, All Mirrors, Go Home, All The Good Times
Sharon Van Etten setlist: Headspace, Comeback Kid, Anything, Come Back, No One’s Easy To Love, Tarifa, Born, Hands, Every Time The Sun Comes Up, Mistakes, Seventeen Encore: Darkish (solo), Like I Used To (with Angel Olsen and Julien Baker)
SHARON VAN ETTEN