Angel Olsen LIVE at Lincoln Hall Chicago 05/04/2014
Beloved singer-songwriter Angel Olsen performed to a sold-out Lincoln Hall Sunday May 04, 2014. This lovely songstress delivered 16 songs seemingly straight from heaven. After seven months away from Chicago, Olsen and her four supporting musicians took the stage with very little production fanfare: two sporting ball-caps (including Olsen) and all in jeans. I was surprised to see her in anything other than that tight and sparkly gold sweater, vintage skirt and funky Mary Janes she wore in her must-see “Hi-Five” video. Her non-flashy attire at this show only left her voice that much more exposed– with little to distract. Olsen’s voice was the reason we were all there. It’s certain, beautiful, unusual, retro, revealing, faraway, haunting, controlled but dramatic and curiously flawless. I searched for some effect, some vocal processing to explain what I was hearing. I saw nothing.
Olsen was joined by band-mates: bass player, Emily Elhaj; drummer, Josh Jaeger; and guitarist, Stewart Bronaugh. They are young, solid players who are impressive in their own right. Together, they delivered something for everybody: rock and roll, blues, subtle country, vintage 50’s heartbreak, and thoughtful indie songs.
Halfway through the evening, Olsen and the band offered up a more lively indie tune, giving the crowd an opportunity to get to know her lead guitarist. Bronaugh contributed grabbing, melodic guitar parts. A number of us attempted to peek over the stage to see what pedals were helping to create such magic. We thought we spotted reverb, drive and phase shifter pedals. Whatever they were, Bronaugh proved himself to be an impressive talent, demonstrating restraint and taste. The band enjoyed hearing him play as much as the audience did. Olsen chimed in, “this is our most fun song.”
Olsen treated the crowd to a few solo songs toward the end of the evening. These solo pieces seem to emerge from both freedom and melancholy. The crowd was respectfully quiet, perhaps even spellbound. The solo pieces included “White Fire, “ with powerful and reflective lyrics: “If I only had an answer to put it all to bed. I wish sometimes I could take back every word I said.”
Her eyes blinked slowly, almost deliberately during her solo songs. It was as if she was reliving each lyric and it was as raw for her as the day she wrote them. There’s no apparent self-consciousness from her despite her very personal music. She invited us into her life without hesitation. Olsen closed with an older piece, “Some Things Cosmic.” The fans were again hushed and in awe. At that point, I decided the entire crowd was fantasizing about waking up alongside her the next morning.
Angel Olsen is the most impressive, new solo female act I’ve seen in years. Nothing was held back and nothing overdone. It was a stunning performance by an intriguing artist with a voice from above and a perfectly matched band.