The Gov, Wed 7 Dec.
This has been a rough year, and we have lost some legendary artists, so it’s a relief to see a real deal rock star on the rise roll into town to show Adelaide how it’s done and provide some hope for the future. And make no mistake Angel Olsen is indeed the real deal. She could probably get by on her voice alone, but she writes her songs, produces and directs her videos, runs a six-piece band, and puts on a killer live show that wowed the audience at The Gov on this stormy night.
Then there’s the matter of that voice, that impossibly powerful wail which simultaneously calls to mind Tammy Wynette and Roy Orbison. It is a rare thing to see and hear someone with such a gift, especially one in such command of it. There were moments when she let loose with an extended howl and the audience would respond in kind, but her ferocity was tempered between songs as she cracked jokes about smashed avocado on toast, topicality likely earned over the course of this impressively thorough thirteen date tour of Australia and New Zealand.
Her band is sharply dressed in powder blue suits with bolo ties, and they use their impeccable gear, courtesy of Gibson, Fender, Ampeg, and Vox, to put on one of the better sounding gigs I’ve ever heard, with warm, reverbed tones bathing the audience in atmosphere and lending a classic sound to Olsen’s indie rock sensibilities.
Dispensing with their excellent recent single Shut Up Kiss Me early on, Olsen and her band got on with the business of recreating the painstakingly slow, gorgeous soundscapes that form the backbone of her most recent album, MY WOMAN. It’s easy to sway back and forth to the sound of Heart Shaped Face, as the narrator runs through all of the things her lover may have confused her for to the tastefully groovy backbeat of her band. They follow with Sister, building up its closing refrain of “All my life I thought I’d change,” and then improving on the climactic guitar meltdown that is a highlight of the recent album, prompting ecstatic cheers from the crowd.
From that lofty peak, the band downshifted into the dreamily lovely Those Were The Days before delving into a similarly tranquil Acrobat, augmented with a psychedelic jam that was not evident in the fingerpicked acoustic opener of 2012’s Half Way Home album.
Just when you thought the show could not get any slower, Olsen launched the band into a time-stopping version of Windows, the closer to her 2014 Burn Your Fire For No Witness. It’s tempting to question the wisdom of such an extended lull in the middle of a show on a school night, but this is Angel Olsen’s art and it sounds amazing, so she and her band can play as slow as they like for as long as they want and I will kick myself awake if I have to. Around this time, the happy thought occurs that this would be amazing music to lie in a field to at a festival.
Eventually they picked it up again, closing strong with the upbeat rockers Sweet Dreams, Forgiven/Forgotten, and Give It Up, before coming back with Olsen on synth for a sparse encore of Intern, and leaving with the steady build and release of Woman. The audience applauded heavily before moving on into the Adelaide night, and thankfully the show’s end was well-timed for an exit between thunderstorms.
Image Courtesy of Joshua Mellin via Flickr