Gig Review: Angel Olsen

All the indie fans had come out that night, meaning Angel Olsen’s SWX show was sold out. 

Hand Habits was the opening act, and it was a gentle way to start the show. A straight down the line indie folk act that was sweet and gentle. They are a three-piece band who had some fantastic harmonies between the lead singer and the drummer. Gentle sounds to start out the night, soft drums, using brushes for a textural depth. The lead singer had a confident yet quiet voice. They did seem relatively awkward on stage. The crowd wasn’t always going for it, the guitarist and bass player tuning up after every song making it difficult for the show to gain momentum. However, the company of sweet stage banter made it memorable. “I love it when people kiss while we play. Was it you two? I thought it was because you smiled when I said that. Anyway here’s a song about kissing.” is the line I committed to their moment.

Then Angel Olsen came out to a smoky blacked out stage. The crowd went crazy as the spotlight hit her, revealing her almost comical beehive hairstyle. She walked over to a keyboard and started playing. The stage presence was almost intimidating. The keyboard was facing off the side of the stage, so she really didn’t engage with the audience, going though the first three songs without talking to the crowd. She started with New Love Cassette, which sounded very tight, the whole band being very focused and professional. You couldn’t sense any boredom in the spellbound crowd, who were certainly locking in with the performance. A violin and cello accompaniment more than compensated for the lack of the lushous orchestra present on her new album. It gave a real sense of maturity and menace.

After the first few songs Angel grabbed a guitar, started interacting with the audience, and everything felt a bit looser. Her North American country twang came out: “Y’all the band went out last night, we tour s*** up.” The beehive-hair started to make more sense. It became less introspective, and more of an indie rock show after that point. Although the band themselves just had some, when Angel had a few sips of water the band started playing Pink Floyd’s Money, to which the audience cheerfully sang along. The singer-songwriter came back to the microphone exclaiming they should play something written by her next. It was a really joyous atmosphere, the band and audience laughing together.

Next, Sweet Dreams kicked off the bleary dark ballads, and the show took a (familiar) grungy turn. The crowd grew more and more alive from that point onwards. Angel Olsen treated the audience with a song she wrote in her hotel room the night before. She started explaining how the song goes “it’s like C A D or something”, but gave up, showing complete confidence in her band “I dunno they are talented guys they will get it.” The atmosphere was thrilling when they launched into Shut Up Kiss Me, the single of her 2016 masterpiece, My Woman.

Featured image by Cameron McCool via Pitch Perfect PR

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