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The Wild Hearts Tour. Mission Ballroom. 08.07.22

The Wild Heart Tour brought three of the most celebrated female musicians across the country for a month from July 21st through August 21st, ending with a pair of shows in Central Park. The Denver stop came right in the middle of the run and found all three women (along with Alaskan native Quinn Christopherson) in top form.

Quinn kicked things off with an upbeat set of catchy songs with miserable lyrics. Dressed all in white and looking much younger than his 25 years, Quinn was light on his feet as he skipped and kicked around the stage, always acknowledging the crowd and the guitarist sharing the spotlight with him. Addressing the kid he was in 2005; his sage advice consisted of things like, “It’ll all get worse; nothing prepares you for this world.” Taking the audience on a journey through his life’s mistakes, the phrase “I don’t know who I am” was repeated over and over during “Bubblegum,” but Quinn looked like a confident man who knew exactly who he was during his early evening set at Mission Ballroom.

Quinn Christopherson Setlist: Bubblegum, Celine, Evelene, Loaded Gun, 2005, unknown, Thanks

The first time I saw Julien Baker live was at the Chicago Theatre, opening for Belle and Sebastian. She had a single album out and looked so small in the large theater. A single light framed her silhouette as she performed songs from “Sprained Ankle” all by her lonesome, with a voice impossibly powerful for such a small person. I was in Chicago for work, and my wife texted me from home when I was in an Uber on my way to the show. The text was a picture of two positive pregnancy tests. With that image in my head, Julien’s set wrecked me in the best way. My wife and I saw her perform in a small club in Madrid a few months later, not long before our daughter was born. Because of those experiences, I will always be nostalgic for Julien’s solo shows. Those days are behind her, though. And for good reason. She blows that nostalgia right out of my head the minute she transforms into rock star mode, as she did at the Mission Ballroom. After a quick rendition of the title track from that first album, the rock show began, taking us from “Tokyo” through the “Red Door” and a “Heatwave” before leaving us in the reverb results of an explosive “Ziptie.” Julien Baker has changed quite a bit over the past few years, her agony transformed from whispers to screams, but she is still that powerful force that broke me in Chicago the night I found out there would be an addition to our family.

Julien Baker Setlist: Sprained Ankle, Bloodshot, Tokyo, Favor, Relative Fiction, Red Door, Heatwave, Ringside, Faith Healer, Hardline, Ziptie

Angel Olsen has gone through many phases in her short career. She first garnered attention on “Half Way Home,” a stripped-down, depressing folk album reminiscent of Karen Dalton. “Burn Your Fire for No Witness” (my personal favorite) added a lot of fuzz to the folk, making it sound more like a lo-fi indie rock album, with some of the songs sounding like they could be Leonard Cohen covers. “MY WOMAN” found Angel embracing her inner rock star. The folk singer was nowhere to be found on that album. Then, with “All Mirrors,” she made a pop album with orchestral arrangements. So, it is no wonder she did not delve too far back in her discography for The Wild Hearts Tour. Her set was as much about mood as it was about the music. Dressed in a pink jumpsuit and rotating through a few guitars (she was constantly tuning while telling stories about doing laundry and how her cat is struggling with the realization it is not human), she performed over half of her new album, “Big Time.” It was a sultry Americana set that would not have been out of place at the Roadhouse in Twin Peaks. She was no longer the denim jacket-clad folk singer I had seen at Larimer Lounge, and she was not the festival-ready rocker I’d seen at FYF. As much as I would have liked to have heard some older songs, they would have been out of place. After Julien’s intense group therapy session, Angel stuck with selections that set the crowd at ease. She was the calm before the next storm.

Angel Olsen Setlist: Dream Thing, Big Time, Ghost On, Right Now, All Mirrors, Lark, Go Home, Through the Fires, Chance

Sharon took the stage in all black. If Angel’s cat was struggling with not being human, Sharon was going in the opposite direction, stalking the stage like a feral animal, locking eyes with those of us in close proximity. Kicking things off with “Headspace” before ratcheting up the energy with “Comeback Kid” and “No One’s Easy to Love,” she did not formally address the audience until after the third song. “Denver, how ya feeling? Want me to make you feel worse?” As depressing as some of her lyrics may be, “this song is about sipping whiskey and not knowing what to tell my kid about what is happening in the world,” her performance was anything but. It was a Sunday night, we had been in the venue for a few hours, and the crowd had shrunk (possibly due to the insane flash flooding happening outside), but those of us still in attendance were rewarded. I have seen Sharon quite a few times in the past, but always as an opener. It was great to see her promoted to the status she deserves. After a few more anecdotes about meeting her baby’s daddy in Denver (her drummer), the OA tv series, and Dr. Donald Cline, she praised the other artists and the entire crew on the tour, referring to them as family. The main set ended with “Seventeen.” Then she came back for a solo rendition of “Darkish.” before he night ended with an Angel duet of “Like I Used To.”  

Sharon Van Etten Setlist: Headspace, Comeback Kid, No One’s Easy to Love, Anything, Come Back, I’ll Try, Used To It, Serpents, Every Time the Sun Comes Up, Mistakes, Born, Seventeen, Darkish, Like I Used To