Angel Olsen’s latest album ‘My Woman’ truly highlighted her ability for writing both impeccable indie pop songs and the kind of slow two-chord ballads that make chests tighten, all narrated in her exceptional voice.
Support Tim Darcy fills the venue with his voice, an electric guitar and a lot of lush reverb. He is delicate yet confident in his delivery, a winning combination. His melancholy voice touches on hints of Morrissey, and his guitar playing like a less aggressive Billy Bragg. If you want to listen intently he’s there for you, but if you want to stand at the back with a pint, he is also the perfect soundtrack.
The band (dressed in matching suits à la The Crickets) take to the stage before being joined by Olsen herself, and without a word they creep into ‘Heart Shaped Face’. It’s sonically thrilling, the three guitars finding room for each other as they create a sea of ringing chords and reverb, with the rhythm section holding down a slow groove. Olsen connects with the audience on a personal level – upon identifying a man who helped her access the venue earlier in the day, she slyly concludes, “We won’t talk about what else happened,” ensuing cheeky giggles all round.
‘Shut Up Kiss Me’, ‘Give It Up’ and ‘Not Gonna Kill You’ in quick succession provide heavy doses of gritty, upbeat indie rock and sound even bigger than on record. Olsen is mesmerising, with a shy manner that looks as though it could explode at any given moment; the fact that it never quite does is all the more exciting. ‘Sister’ is sublime, building up from Olsen’s tentative guitar playing in the first half to her repeatedly singing “All my life I thought I’d change” in the second, starting as a whisper and ending up as a gorgeous harmonised statement over an orgasm of sound. It’s throughout these moments that the audience are strikingly hushed; a combination of respect and awe.
Not that there was any previous doubt, but tonight shows how scarily talented Olsen is. Every song is brilliantly crafted down to the last lyric, the band play with the perfect balance of emotion and technical prowess – and her voice is something else.
There is however, an elephant in the room. Being less than twenty-four hours after the tragic Manchester Attack, it feels as though something is going unsaid. Finally addressing it, Olsen firmly sighs, “I’ll play in a war zone if I have to. You’ve gotta live your life.” It’s what everyone needs to hear. For ‘Woman’, Olsen moves over to the keyboard. Again, her voice is spine-tingling. A cover of The Motels’ ‘Total Control’ finishes the first set before some older tracks make up the encore, including the wonderful ‘Lonely Universe’.
Tonight’s show is simply brilliant – a wonderful listening experience that meanders through nearly every emotion possible. Olsen’s performance is totally arresting and captivating, and the band are her perfect sonic companions.
Angel Olsen’s third studio album ‘My Woman’ is out now on Jagjaguwar.
Live photos copyright to Tom Saunders
For updates and gig announcements, visit Angel Olsen’s Website.