Angel Olsen is anything but another “intern”
It is far too obvious a comparison between Angel Olsen and, you know, an angel, but the comparison is also incredibly accurate.
Last Saturday night, backed by her five-piece band in matching gray suits, Olsen played a captivating show to a sold-out Republic NOLA, preceded by an opening set from Chris Cohen, formerly of experimental garage-noise outfit Deerhoof. Cohen showcased his hazy and slightly off-kilter tunes that, in the vein of Ariel Pink, distorts ‘60s-era pop-rock through an almost apathetic sunflare lense.
Underneath a constellation of glittering chandeliers, Olsen and her suited band delivered a near-flawless set of her delicately-crafted songs that swim between alt-country and dream-pop and can, at a whim, erupt into a cacophonous epiphany of clanging electric guitars and desolate catharsis. On stage, Olsen is introspective and withdrawn — fitting for her music, which is an auditory exploration of the innermost chambers of reflection. She is seemingly lost in the soundscapes, only to be drawn out by the antics of her band or the numerous declarations of undying love from smitten audience members.
“I love you, Angel!”
“Let’s go out,” she answered. “Just you and me … and all these people in grey suits.” She puckered an air-kiss over her shoulder to the would-be wooer. On these occasions, she would radiate a smile that contained within it the lights of a thousand stars. Olsen’s voice is ethereal; coaxing and emotive, it colors your auditory cortex with purple-gray hues that hum with more vibrancy than the most extravagant neon casino rainbow, and it was on full display Saturday night — effortlessly gliding between the instrumental flourishes of her band.
From my spot in the front left side of the stage, I could see down the line of attendees in the front row pressed against the barrier. Framed by a halo of light misting through a gauze of airborne nicotine, a girl with tiger-orange hair in the same cut as Olsen put her arms out toward her in a motion that typified the event: a slow reach towards a light at the end of endless tunnel. Tears were streaming down her face.
From the opening “Never Be Mine” through the sublime, seamless encore one-two of “Intern” and “Woman,” there was a sense of intimacy throughout the performance, as though she were playing a small house-show. She left out no crowd favorites, wheeling through the shivering-guitar riff of “Hi-Five” and the wonderful understatement of “unf***theworld” from 2014’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness and putting her break-out single “Shut Up Kiss Me,” surprisingly early in the set. Space seemed to contract around Olsen the whole night, drawing the audience in before releasing them into the humid New Orleans night.