The Lantern, Colston Hall, Bristol | 10 June
“There’s a bar, or I guess you guys call it a pub, just down the road. 1600s. It’s got human skin in the door”. In terms of Angel Olsen’s humour tonight, this is about as cheerful as she gets. It’s been a big year for Olsen, and we’ve caught her amidst a whirlwind of a tour in support of her highly acclaimed new album Burn Your Fire For No Witness. The exhausting nature of touring feels palpable as she stands expressionless on stage.
That’s not to say she’s not entirely morose, cracking laconic jokes at intervals. “I’ve never been arrested, but I have been searched”, she spurts, unprompted. “How about you?”, she laughs, taken by the brash nature of the statement. “Things are getting shittier and shittier. Everything gets more and more intrusive and everyone’s like: this is okay, this is life now”. The fast rising St. Louis singer/songwriter shared similar thoughts during an interview with us earlier this year, and her direct nature is apparent on album tracks like Hi-Five and Iota. It’s a theme that runs through the stunning Burn Your Fire For No Witness, one that kindles a fierce, playful intensity between its starkly intimate ballads. Tonight, as Olsen plays a sold out show in The Lantern, she’s acting similarly surly about proceedings. “Four months. Flatulating in the van. And now we’re here performing for you, which is nice.” She deadpans, and a teasing smirk follows.
As she runs through songs from across her discography, it’s Olsen’s voice that triumphs here. Shifting from cavernous to brittle, twanging in the all the right places, it’s this enchanting voice that enthralled so many of us, and her smothering tones are draping a cosy audience in the grandiose setting. Forgiven/Forgotten hits like a bullet, and the warbling jangle of Hi-Five gets heads moving. Her band leave and Angel runs through a chilling acoustic set of her most captivating tracks. By the end of White Fire, we’re certain we see three female members of the crowd crying. It’s this disarming tenderness that led Olsen on this path, and, although she may not be entirely thrilled to be here, we’re certainly pleased it has.
– – – – – – – – – – – –
Words: Anna Tehabsim