Van Etten's voice transcends technical glitches in debut album flashback

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An archive of the stream, available for 24 hours post-performance, reveals a nervy Van Etten easing the tension with an endearing improvised song about technical difficulties.

Playing in a small room packed with music gear in her Los Angeles home, Van Etten’s presentation is an unflashy affair, save for the singer’s flamboyant maroon velvet suit.

Visual razzle-dazzle isn’t required, though, when in possession of a voice like Van Etten’s – a spellbinding instrument capable of reaching angelic highs that can also switch between howling strength and fragile vulnerability.

Free from their recorded counterpart’s multi-tracked harmonies, the songs and especially their lyrics are conveyed with a new degree of clarity, adding extra emotional punch to standout tracks such as Tornado, Same Dream and It’s Not Like.

Banter ranges from the softly spoken Van Etten admitting stage fright (“My nerves are wetting the strings!”) to acknowledging that she’s known as “Shazza” in Australia. A series of shout-outs to friends is akin to having the thank-yous in an album’s liner notes read aloud.

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As with most livestreamed performances, there’s an appealing sense of closed-quarters intimacy, however much Van Etten’s larger-than-life voice transcends the small space within which it’s confined.

Despite streaming lags and the occasional complaint from viewers about low sound, there’s a greater audio-visual quality compared to other oft-used streaming platforms, making the price of admission, which also goes toward supporting Van Etten’s band and crew, worthwhile.

Hopefully, the technical kinks inherent with this form of delivery can continue to be ironed out to encourage other artists of Van Etten’s calibre to feel confident in providing paid livestream gigs to eager fans.