“Always tip your bartenders,” Angel Olsen said as she greeted the crowd of the Crystal Ballroom after opening with “Never Be Mine.” Her band was suited up with bolo ties, and together they delivered a powerful set that was mesmerizing and full of energy. Watching Angel Olsen perform live is like drinking a cup of warm milk. You feel at home and you’re left wanting more.
Olsen kept the crowd engaged and entertained between songs with her dry sense of humor and a large body of sarcastic commentary: “I used to be a cheerleader. But I was a bitch and had a bad attitude so I quit. Then I decided I wanted to be in a rock and roll band. They’re basically the same thing.” Olsen’s sense of humor is as off-beat as her music, which fuses folky-Americana with grunge-rock vibes. Her heavy use of reverb gives her already haunting, yodely voice a heavy and bewitching distortion. Olsen’s set included some popular favorites, such as “High Five,” “Shut Up Kiss Me,” “Forgiven/Forgotten,” and “Give It Up.” Her voice is even more striking live than what we get when we listen to her albums. Her voice delivered with rich undertones and an unapologetic power.
With guitar in hand for all but one of her songs, Olsen boldly claimed the position of singer and guitarist, and rightfully so. Her effortless and commanding stage presence, in conjunction with her powerful vocals, succeeded in bringing the audience from an entranced standstill to a raging, dancing panic and everything in between. Olsen’s ability to engage with the audience and evoke such a wide range of emotions illuminates her versatility as an artist. Not only does she successfully merge a variety of musical genres to create her own unique sound, but she also creates songs that tell stories reflective of a complex human experience. People relate to her, and she constantly delivers.
Seeing Olsen perform live was a dream of nearly three years finally seen to fruition. Throughout her opener, Chris Cohen’s performance, I could barely stand still. He was great, but like my friends and the other attendees can surely relate to, the anticipation of Olsen’s performance made it difficult to appreciate his sound. While talented and undoubtedly an engaging musician if performing as a headliner rather than as an opener, it was difficult to enjoy his set knowing the powerhouse vocalist, guitarist, and badass babe who was to come. Standing fourth row, I constantly pretended Olsen was serenading me and I soaked up every minute of it. Her encore consisted of three songs: “Intern,” “Woman,” and “Total Control,” but everybody was left wanting more when she was finally done. Olsen’s music is like a drug. Once you start listening you can’t stop. And even more so, once you’ve seen her live, all you want is to get the opportunity for a second round.
Soon Olsen will be taking stages far larger than the Crystal Ballroom. While Olsen is a relatively new artist, rising to fame over the past few years, she’s already carving out a place for herself in the music world and in our hearts. She speaks for all of us when she sings in “If It’s Alive It Will” that “I’ve learned that no one ever really is the only one.” Olsen’s music not only makes us feel connected to her, but connected to others, too. Loving Angel Olsen is like instantaneously joining a community of individuals who are addicted to music, art and life. Olsen reminds us that sometimes heartbreak is just a way for us to find new people, or music, to connect to.