Angel Olsen at Royale, 11/19

by Michael Cambron

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Angel Olsen is one of the most prolific and acclaimed indie rock artists of the decade. Moving from the sparse folk music of her debut EP Strange Cacti all the way to the massive walls of synths and strings in her most recent release All Mirrors, Olsen has never shied away from reinvention and evolution. Her show at the Royale was able to effectively blend together all of her eras into an unforgettable concert-going experience. 

After opener Vagabon played an excellent set, Olsen sashayed out to “New Love Cassette,” a swooning deep cut from her latest record about letting love into your life. This was followed by a slew of songs from All Mirrors, all of which captivated the packed crowd. The rollicking seasonally named cuts “Spring” and “Summer” had the crowd bobbing their heads along with the melodramatic energy of the album’s title track also got the crowd moving. 

The performances that stuck with me most, however, were the languid, downtempo cuts. When she played my favorite song from All Mirrors, “Lark,” I nearly had a dissociative episode marvelling at the stirring emotions Olsen put on display. Backed by a full band that included a miniature string section consisting of a violin and cello duo, the spirit of All Mirrors remained intact as it was translated for a live audience. The performance of the ballad “Tonight” especially showcased the gorgeous string compositions present on Olsen’s latest record. 

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One performance that took me by surprise was “Special,” a nearly seven minute B-side, and one of my favorite Angel Olsen songs ever. “Want to be special/Something like your mother/Want to be someone else/Not me, but another” are the lines crooned by Olsen over sparse guitar strums. By the end, the entire band came in full force and drenched the Royale in guitar fuzz. 

Angel Olsen is quite frankly, hilarious. She frequently joked around with the crowd, at one point pretending to take suggestions before going “Yeah, I’m just gonna play whatever the fuck I want.” This dynamic transferred to her excellent touring band, all of whom partook in the fun. At the end of one of her most well-known tunes “Shut Up Kiss Me,” the band kept playing for an awkwardly long time after when the instrumental of the song was supposed to end. 

For the encore, Olsen played another 60s inspired gem from her newest album, “Chance.” She ended the show on an upbeat note, singing her collaboration with Mark Ronson, “True Blue,” which geniously channels Olsen’s affecting vocals and writing into a four-on-the-floor roller rink romp. As the crowd was dancing along and smiling, Olsen exited after blowing the crowd a kiss and thanking them for being there, letting the band finish out the rest of the song.

For an artist so often boxed in as the “sad indie chick,” Angel Olsen has once again asserted that she is a force to be reckoned with. Though I have no idea where she will take her sound going into the next decade, I do know that it will undoubtedly be a new way my mind will get blown to pieces.

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