Angel Olsen Glows Under the Full Moon

Angel Olsen - photo by Laura Buhman

Angel Olsen has made big waves in the indie music scene late this year with her October release All Mirrors. Rough Trade even named it one of their Top 10 Albums of 2019 list just before the show tonight.

It’s no secret why that is. The album is filled with glistening soundscapes that pull the listener deeper into her music than ever before. Pairing that intensity with Olsen’s thoughtfully crafted lyrics is a winning combination.

As the show grew closer I wondered how the inclusion of the deep orchestral instrumentation and vocal effects would translate in the live performance. Olsen has generally kept her stage set very clean and open and left the music to shine out front of the performance, but how can they possibly mimic a full string section for the tour?

We’ll get to all of that. First, we need to talk about opener Vagabon.


Vagabon – photo by Laura Buhman

Laetitia Tamko is Vagabon. She is a strong indie star on the rise. She’s toured with Courtney Barnett, Julien Baker, and Jamilla Woods over the last couple of years, and her self-titled sophomore album was released earlier this year.

Fans of The Current have heard her single “Water Me Down” on heavy rotation ahead of the show. The driving beat of the drum machine paired with the airy synths translated beautifully. The merch line filled up with new fans while she continued her set.

Vagabon – photo by Laura Buhman

Some of her songs feel purposeful and reflective like those of Cat Power, Solange, or Elliott Smith. Not necessarily in sound, but certainly in spirit. “Fear & Force,” “In A Bind,” and “Sharks” were stunning to hear live on the First Avenue stage. You could almost hear a pin drop during the quiet moments.

Freddy, come back, I know you love Vermont
But I thought that I had more time
We won’t go back, I know you love where you are
But I think I changed my mind
“Fear & Force”

I’m sincerely hoping for her to return to the Twin Cities for a headlining show as soon as possible!

Angel Olsen

The screen came up to reveal to a sea of fog over the stage. Minneapolis excitedly cheered in anticipation as the band took their places on stage. A grand staircase backdrop appeared as the lights came up, and metallic beaded trim hung as a border above the stage.

Angel Olsen – photo by Laura Buhman

The first beats of “New Love Cassette” rang through the room. Cellist Emily Elkin and violinist Alex Guy completed the six-piece backing band. They added the perfect touch to bring the album to life for the audience.

Olsen didn’t bury “All Mirrors” at the end of the set. She hyped the crowd with it early. The trilling strings sounded full and Olsen’s voice projected powerfully. It was definitely a crowd favorite, and one of the most robust pieces of music of the night. “Spring” and “Impasse” were next. They felt like a new chapter in the set as the urgency of “All Mirrors” was winding down and the band could settle in.

“Lark” was an intense fever dream. It started out slowly with strings and built up with the addition of guitars and drums. The drums pounded through the room and Olsen’s vocals soared. An audience member shouted “That was really good!” at the end and she couldn’t help but laugh. She seemed in really good spirits for the entire night.

Angel Olsen – photo by Laura Buhman

Olsen wasn’t shy about addressing the crowd throughout the night. She was all smiles between songs, making jokes about what the crowd wanted to hear, and she even convinced the band to play a few bars of Blind Melon’s “No Rain.”

Beams of purple light bounced along to heavy synthesizers as they performed “Tonight.” The crowd went crazy for “Sweet Dreams” from 2013’s Sleepwalker. The applause after each song was thunderous. I was glad to see how responsive and appreciative they were towards Olsen and the band.

Angel Olsen – photo by Laura Buhman

The loudest screams of the night came from “Shut Up Kiss Me” from 2016’s My Woman. The ’60s style pop song won everyone over on its release, and it was so fun to hear it live! Everyone let loose on stage.

Stop pretending I’m not there
When it’s clear I’m not going anywhere
If I’m out of sight then take another look around
I’m still out there hoping to be foundShut up, kiss me, hold me tight
Shut up, kiss me, hold me tight
Stop your crying, it’s alright
Shut up, kiss me, hold me tight
Shut up, kiss me, hold me tight

Olsen took the time to thank Vagabon for joining the tour. She also introduced her band before playing “Endgame” and “Unfucktheworld.”

And then, with a smile and wave, she was off the stage. The applause was massive. People were so excited about what they had seen and were hoping for more. It didn’t take long for her to come back to the stage to perform a final pair of songs.

“Chance” was first up. It felt like witnessing an old variety show shot for black and white television. She left all guitar and keyboard duties behind and glided around the stage, clutching her microphone cord in her other hand as she flirtily belted the tender ballad.

Angel Olsen – photo by Laura Buhman

The final song of the night was an unexpected but welcome addition to the set, her Mark Ronson collaboration “True Blue.” She joked that she sometimes needed to smoke a cigarette before singing it because the vocals are so low, but she doesn’t smoke anymore because she’s a “good girl!”

As the disco-centric song came to a close, Olsen waved to the audience and thanked them. The band left stage one by one and the music thinned. It gave each member a chance to get much-deserved recognition from the crowd.

Angel Olsen – photo by Laura Buhman

The show exceeded expectations. It was uplifting, even in its heaviest moments. The musical arrangements were beautiful. Olsen is at the top of her game right now, and I can’t imagine that it won’t top a lot of “Best Shows of 2019”-style lists locally.

See you next time, Angel!

Written by Laura Buhman


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