Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten and Julien Baker brought the “Wild Hearts” tour to Boston – 8/18

The three luminary singer-songwriters teamed up for a summer tour that stopped at Boston’s Leader Bank Pavilion last week.

I’ve been covering live music in Boston for a solid decade now, and consequently I’ve had the opportunity to chart many an act’s ascendence from opening gigs to small-venue sellouts to bigger and bigger things. It truly never gets old to see a deserving talent climb up those ranks, and in the case of Thursday night’s “Wild Hearts” tour, the bill offered up a triple-threat of such examples. From Sharon Van Etten headlining The Sinclair to Angel Olsen opening for Kurt Vile in the same room and Julien Baker warming up for The Districts at the Northeastern Starbucks, I’d managed to catch each of the these co-headliners around town in much earlier phases of their careers, and last week’s show before an adoring crowd at one of the city’s bigger live spaces felt like a well-earned achievement for each.

Baker kicked things off with a set pulling heavily from her latest, last year’s Little Oblivions. Once known for sparse and devastating solo confessionals, Baker’s sonic palette has opened up, and following a subdued “Sprained Ankle” out of the gate, her set did the same. The songs crashed to dramatic peaks that recalled post-rock crescendos, translating the emotional punch of her lyrics into a sonic one. It was the first time I’d seen her play most of this material and the heft of the new full-band approach came as something of a surprise, but certainly not an unwelcome one.

For her followup set, Sharon Van Etten also manifested an evolving sound, which has welcomed dreamy synths and danceable percussion into the formerly folksy mix. Suggesting Van Etten has gone full goth might be a bridge too far, but her sharp suit, moody lighting and slinking stage presence evoked darkwave, at least. Unencumbered by a guitar for a good chunk of the set, Van Etten embraced the drama and flair of a true frontperson, shepherding a talented backing cast through cuts from May’s We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong and some occasionally reworked older tunes while raising fists, falling to her knees and singing eye-to-eye with her bandmates. I’ve always been a fan, but this might’ve been my favorite of her performances I’ve seen over the years.

Closing out the night, Angel Olsen’s set played things the most straightforward of the three. Fitting, since her new release – June’s Big Time – finds her swinging back towards the traditional sounds of country and Americana as a followup to the more far-ranging All Mirrors. No matter how she’s styling its musical underpinnings though, Olsen’s transfixing voice is the heart of her shows, and sounded stunning as always on this night. Big Time feels like a grower to me, and hearing Olsen and her band dig into a majority of its songs on stage certainly aided in that. I would’ve liked to hear a few selections stretching further back than Mirrors, which made up the other third of the main set – it’s a power move to have a trio of records as good as Half Way HomeBurn Your Fire For No Witness and My Woman and not feel obligated to play anything off of them – but an encore that brought back Van Etten for the pair’s 2021 collab “Like I Used To” and a sweeping cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Without You” put a satisfying cap on the evening.

Scroll below for a gallery from all three sets.