maandag 7 april 2014

Angel Olsen live at Paradiso, 6 April 2014

Photo, Wo.
A few weeks ago I ran into Angel Olsen's second album 'Burn your fire for no witness'. After writing a very positive review on this blog, I found out that she would play Paradiso early April and bought a ticket straight away, being really interested how Olsen would translate the very diverse songs on her album on stage. To be honest I hadn't a clue what to expect. Would she play solo with an acoustic guitar or in a (small) band setting?

With some train delays I got to the Paradiso a few minutes late and found out that the small upstairs room was sold out. People were turning up at random at the steps leading up to the entrance who had to be disappointed. Once inside I found out that Angel Olsen had already started. So perhaps I missed one or two songs. It did not take away anything from what I was presented with. On stage was a foursome. Drummer Josh Jaeger, bassist Emily Elhaj, lead guitarist Stuart Bronaugh and Angel Olsen herself on rhythm guitar. No background vocals. On the last gig of this European tour, it was not as if the band build an extra party. Playing the music of Angel Olsen is a serious business.

Angel Olsen and band, Photo: Wo.
Very often at Paradiso the audience acts like it's in a bar and is talking the loudest possible as if there is a sound system playing instead of an artist. This audience listened intensively, mixed well between male and female, most in their twenties and thirties. And we all listened more and more enraptured by Angel Olsen. Not that she stood on stage with a huge presence or charisma. It was the power of her songs and singing. At times I had the idea that Angel Olsen would not have minded to have a curtain between us and her. At each opportunity we saw her back, turned to the audience. There was very little interaction, so the joke addressed to someone walking up with beers, came as a bit of a surprise.

The songs did all the work.The mix between country/folk, the turns and twist in her singing are dead giveaways here, and The Velvet Underground guitar rhythms showed how close these two seeming extremes really are. It is the way the guitar is stroked that makes the difference. Angel Olsen doesn't mind to throw in a few completely dissonant notes or chords into a lovely song on stage. The estrangement only gets bigger between the sweetness of her voice, the way of singing, the struggles in the lyrics and the music itself. From a great unit to things falling apart within seconds. Her singing is special as she has a few different techniques that makes the emotions in the songs change the whole time when she wants to. Angry, longing, aching, indifferent or detached, it is all there.

Photo: Wo.
The spine tingling moment came when Olsen sent the band off stage and remained with her guitar. In a long folk song, 'White fire', she memsmerised everyone except the two barladies behind me, who discussed life in thick Amsterdam accents. When only the guitar was played there were a mere 61 decibels left over. Her voice went from 67 to 83 as a maximum and there was only humans breathing left in the room left. Perhaps holding it as long as possible too. Total rapture and surrender. A song like Leonard Cohen's best songs. 'The partisan' or 'Hey, that's no way to say goodbye'. 'White fire' is an extremely powerful song. There followed two more songs like this and then it was all over. The last song really was the last song to the disappointment of circa 200 people. Angel Olsen had come and won. The only bad thing was that her first cd had sold out. I would have bought it blindly.

Angel Olsen certainly is a talent, the show in Amsterdam very convincing. It is going to be very interesting to see how her career will develop. Perhaps a bit strange, but I went home with 'Leader of the pack' in my head. Why? I found out that it was because of the melody of the first line of 'High-five'.


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