Angel Olsen at Fitzgerald's, 11/5/2014
Photos by Ivan Guzman
Angel Olsen, Lionlimb Fitzgerald's November 5, 2014
Angel Olsen has a gaze so piercing that watching her even from far away makes you feel like you are being stared down by a friend, a lover, and an enemy all at the same time. Watching her perform, and I mean really watching her, can almost feel like you are looking way down into the depths of her soul.
If you were to listen to her debut full-length Half Way Home or her 2014 effort Burn Your Fire For No Witness alone in your room at night with headphones on, you're sure to get the same chilling feeling. The Missouri-based singer songwriter's defining trait is the ability to apply her hushed, fragile voice on top of any background music she pleases and still make the deep, longing emotion in her voice the thing that stands out.
Olsen's versatility is most notably displayed on No Witness, however. It's clearly a leap from the quiet intimacy of her debut with fuzzy garage-rock-inspired standouts "Forgiven/Forgotten" and "Hi-Five," but although these numbers serve as a sort of cathartic release for both Olsen and her audience, I found myself wanting the drummer and guitarist to go away and leave the singer with just the four strings on her guitar or maybe even go a cappella. Too often, the band overpowered Olsen and drowned out her voice. There isn't much to take away from meaningful songs like "Stars" when all you hear are mumbles.
The clear highlight of the night happened when the band said goodbye, and Olsen was left solo to perform the more toned-down numbers of her discography, closing with the haunting ten-minute "White Fire." The performance was simply her airy, spellbinding falsetto and two chords on her electric guitar, but having the luxury to really interpret her lyrics and observe her unique vocal techniques seemed to leave more of an impact on the audience than any other song in the set. The song definitely went on for a long time, but I was put into such a beautiful trance just listening to her voice that I realized I could listen to it forever -- or at least until she releases her next album. Please sing me lullabies every night, Angel.
Even in the noisier parts of Olsen's set, when a song would reach its climax with a big, soaring note, there was still a contagious calmness in her tone and in her aura that I think is indicative of her personality. Angel Olsen is not one to ever smile, except sometimes during her minimal stage banter, but there is a maturity and intelligence in the way she carries herself.
The crowd last night wasn't full, but when the band left her to be alone on the stage, Olsen had absolutely no fear to look people straight in the eyes and completely spill out her full emotions in that moment, which is a pretty awesome and admirable thing in my opinion.
"Burn your fire for no witness." I think about Angel Olsen and find that's exactly what she's doing, and in a pretty great way.
Personal Bias: I kinda feel a spiritual connection to Olsen on many levels.
The Crowd: Small. But you could tell there were some pretty devoted fans in the bunch as I looked around and saw many people singing along to every word of some songs.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I wish I was as strong as her bangs!"
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.