Angel Olsen

Rialto Theatre, Montreal QC, September 23

Photo: Luke Orlando

BY Cosette SchulzPublished Sep 24, 2016

"What is this place? Where are we?" asked Angel Olsen cheekily, referring to the Rialto Theatre in all its ornate yet not gaudy glory. "I feel like Jack is on the balcony…what's that line? 'Don't Let Me Go'? That scene in the car, underneath the boat, and that scene with the painting…ooh, what a night they had."
And what a night everyone in the audience had, too — unbearably beautiful sounds filled a fittingly beautiful space. Olsen's five-piece band, in matching blue-grey suits, quietly filled the stage. Olsen, in a gold cocktail dress and updo, followed suit. They were poised, they were ready, but nothing could have prepared the audience for this, their woman.
This was not the Angel Olsen of a few years back, when she was out and about supporting her brilliant Burn Your Fire for No Witness. This time around, Olsen was self-assured, her voice, devastating,  unwavering and impassioned. Her guitar held high, her strumming soft, but there was nothing soft or fragile about her. She is powerful, but casually so. Though her songs still bear the weight of equal parts pain and love, and her voice reflects this anguish, there is nothing weak or vulnerable about it. She stuns in every conceivable way.
"I've got a couple things to tell you, but first…" she said, before heading into "Shut Up Kiss Me," one of the more upbeat, catchy tunes off the exceptional My Woman. "Hi5" had more twang and hit more of a country groove than the original recording, setting the scene for an evening of slightly changed arrangements, thoughtful choices that proved the band and Olsen's prowess, love and understanding of their material.
Playing with and intensifying the range and dynamics that My Woman already possesses — the soft moments softer, the hard hits slamming — set Olsen apart from her early days of performing with only an acoustic. "Heart Shaped Face" was a knockout. "Sister" and "Not Gonna Kill You" were unbelievable. The lyrics in "Acrobat" were changed from "I am alive" to "I'm still alive," changing the meaning; the encore performance of "Window," sung in a lower register, increased the feeling. When Olsen took to the keys to perform an eerie, subtly swirled synth version of "Intern," that's when her voice really took flight. It was a stunner of an evening.

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