Not Everything is Beer and Rock-and-Roll – Angel Olsen @ The Great American Music Hall


Angel Olsen visited us at The Great American Music Hall this Monday, playing with a four piece band (Angel on guitar, along with an additional guitarist, bassist and drummer) in what appeared to be dangerously close to a full house. The singer/songwriter has been gaining some serious national attention quickly, with features in the New York Times and multiple NPR bumps in just the last few months.

Angel got her start in Chicago, but is truly an international act — you can check out her full tour schedule here. It’s easy to imagine her playing in a dim lit coffee shop, water droplets sliding down the window behind her, as onlookers listened and warmed themselves with a cup of coffee.

I had a fairly good idea of what I was walking into, but I was thoroughly impressed with the live quality of her voice. Too many times studio albums are so well produced that talented vocalists turn out to be wildly underwhelming live–but, this was not at all the case. Although this was a relatively low energy performance, and she gave off a very “I don’t care” vibe, her voice was powerful and commanding while still being delicate with an emotional inflection.

Opening up with a few of her more popular songs like “Hi Five” and “Forgiven/Forgetten,” which are admittedly my two favorites of hers, she was able to captivate the entire room with her instrument-like voice in much slower songs like “Drunk and With Dreams” and “Windows.” A few other more upbeat songs like “High & Wild” were thrown in, and she closed out with another personal favorite, “White Fire.” This latter song is interesting because from the first note it encapsulates a kind of darkness — in a beautiful way — with the first words ringing, “Everything is tragic, it all just falls apart.”

There is no doubt that Angel Olsen is wildly talented and is destined for a certain degree of fame. She is most definitely on her way now, as made obvious by packing out the Great American Music Hall — a space where bands claw each other’s eyes out just for an opening spot. Although I would have loved to hear more upbeat, fast paced, appalachian style songs (so to speak), Angel delivered an impressive, and quite peaceful, performance — but not a concert. She brings a different kind of energy, through one of the more impressive voices I’ve heard in a while, and demonstrates that not every performance is all about beer and rock-and-roll.

Images courtesy of Gary Magill