Photos by Dakota Arsenault
Earthbound Angel. Heaven sent us an Angel. Angel Olsen soars. The singer-songwriter from St. Louis, Missouri inspires more lazy journalism than your cheesiest Instagram captions. Problem is Angel Olsen’s voice is, umm, heavenly. She can make an audience giddy to the point where only clichés make sense.
The crowd at last night’s sold out show at the Phoenix Concert Theatre was a sea of crushes and broken hearts. Olsen’s music follows in the great Americana tradition of heartache but she draws on so much more. Strains of Motown soul, 50s doo-wop, and 60s avantgarde and all reworked with a slacker-era precision.
Those who grace her stage may dress the part of the classic Nashville backing band, but she accents it with a silver jumpsuit, like a lost child from outerspace. The millennial version of David Bowie’s Thomas Jerome Newton from The Man Who Fell to Earth. Someone with advanced knowledge on one hand and burning desire for growth on the other.
Her set comprised of many of the tracks from her brilliant 2016 album My Woman, coated with a handful of sprinkles from her other releases, was as an emotional a journey as I’ve ever taken at a show. From the lofi rockers like opener “Hi-Fi” from 2014’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness to the Sympathy-for-the-Devil style rave-up of My Woman’s “Not Gonna Kill You” to the sludgy dirge of “Fly On Your Wall” off the recently released rarities collection Phases, Olsen acted as spirit guide with her beautifully aching vibrato. Never has fragile sounded so powerful.
As incredible as her band is, Olsen truly shone when her band left her alone onstage with her trusty vintage Silvertone. Playing “Sans” off Phases and the appropriately titled song for the moment “Unfucktheworld,” she showed what was at the heart of her incredible talent—a soul laid bare.