Review by Izzie Kim.
Angsty indie darling Angel Olsen took over the Regency Ballroom’s stage on Thursday, October 19th, absolutely enthralling her audience with her playful shifts in tone and mood. Performing with her six-piece “Big Band” which included a cellist and violinist, Olsen led with strong vocals and backed herself up on keyboard and on a vintage cream guitar that would have made Eric Clapton swoon.
Somewhat of a musical tease, Olsen made sure to keep the audience on their toes, switching from crooning with her aching husky voice to cracking jokes and squealing loudly in a shockingly high-pitched Southern accent. Olsen’s Missouri roots shone through her show, highlighted by her signature bouffant rivaling that of Priscilla Presley.
Olsen’s discography is earnest in a way that not many other artists are. My first introduction to the songstress was her demanding solicitation to “Shut Up, Kiss Me.” This song, which Olsen began the evening with, sums up a good portion of her music: begging for someone to become something substantial while also promising that she is something worth her lover being substantial for.
“Olsen’s discography is earnest in a way that not many other artists are.”
Listening to Angel Olsen perform is so much different than listening to her recorded work. I’ll admit when I first started listening to her songs on Spotify, I thought she had a sweet voice and added some of her slow songs like “Spring” to one of those classically humiliating for others to see but so important to your own personal development playlists titled something like “yearning”. Seeing her live, changed my perspective on her completely.
As it turns out, Olsen’s discography is not limited to just one single genre — it was a disservice to her work for me to think so. It might be hard to think of Olsen as capable of delivering a hard rock performance, but as if the universe was intent on proving me wrong, I recognized someone from my Buddhist Philosophy class clutching the barricade and headbanging along to some of her violently emotional anthems, including “Right Now” and “Go Home.”
Although the above incident definitely stood out, there was a surprising layer of calm that lingered throughout the crowd. It wasn’t like the night was low-energy or the audience was unappreciative — it was more like we were all held in a hypnotic trance, swaying gently to and fro to the cathartic hymns of a songstress with nothing to lose and everything to give. I even caught myself closing my eyes at some points — subconsciously trying to focus on the swells of the strings and the guttural shaking of Olsen’s heartbreak-y voice.
When I did dare to open my eyes, namely while taking photos of the singer, I was greeted with soft and evocative pink and melancholy blue spotlights centering on Olsen. While I could make a play on words about how the fluttering of Olsen’s gauzy white sleeves and the way the filtering light made her dress glow made it overwhelmingly obvious why the singer’s name is so fitting, I’ll spare you.
Throughout the concert, Olsen’s candid and heartfelt interactions with the audience added a layer of warmth and groundedness to the otherwise “out-of-this-world” performance. She shared the inspiration behind many of her songs, quipped about the weather like a true Bay Area local, and expressed her gratitude for the unwavering support of her fans.
“I don’t see this as a job, I guess I’m jobless. Either way I’m just glad to be here with y’all,” Olsen said before jumping into another song. The feeling was evidently mutual, with many in the audience singing along through songs and screaming out recommendations for the solo part of the evening.
Angel Olsen’s performance at the Regency was a testament to her mastery of emotions and ability to captivate an audience with her powerful vocals. It had a little something for everyone, and as for myself, I walked away with quite a few new songs added to my Spotify likes.