Live Review: Subdued but affirmative, Angel Olsen thrills a sold-out Sinclair
Angel Olsen has come a long way since her last show at the Sinclair, back in the spring of 2014 when she was touring that year’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness. This week, she returned to the venue for two sold-out shows and a spotlight glowing brighter than ever.
The North Carolina resident has found fame and acclaim in recent months with her latest effort, this month’s genre-shifting record MY WOMAN (Jagjaguwar), a 10-song collection that touches on folk, guitar-rock, and gospel. But she’s also retained the ability to stay humble. “We’re gonna play a few songs for you, and then get out of your hair,” Olsen joked before Wednesday show opener “Never Be Mine”, and there was no doubt the packed crowd at the Cambridge rock club would have been fine if she stuck around way longer than her recent sets suggested. Later in the night, she poked fun at her newfound success, and musicians who take things too seriously: “Oh you know, it’s so hard to be an artist,” she said with a facetious grin, “it’s so hard.”
This week, Olsen showcased several tracks from the critically acclaimed MY WOMAN, an album that highlights the former back-up singer’s jaw-dropping vibrato. Olsen’s voice is the real deal, and what you hear live is not post-production exaggeration, but raw talent. Aside from a guitar solo during the sprawling eight-minute-long “Sister,” the five-piece supporting band acted as a mild background, allowing Olsen’s vocals to take center stage. This was perhaps most evident during an ambient and synth-heavy rendition of “Intern,” which opened her encore.
At one point in the night, Olsen thanked her opener, Rodrigo Amarante, a singer best known for his supergroup Little Joy (which boasts The Strokes’ drummer Fabrizio Moretti and singer/multi-instrumentalist Binki Shapiro as members), and his solo track “Tuyo,” which currently serves as the opening theme song to Netflix’s original series Narcos. Amarante’s solo music is similar to Devendra Banhart in the sense that he using multiple languages in his songs, including Portuguese, English, and Spanish. It also sounds very similar to the music he recorded with Little Joy, as he sings in both projects.
Olsen also went on to share that she has toured with Amarante before, and that he had seen her at quite a low point in her career where she had completely lost her voice and played to audiences that didn’t understand English, so she was happy to be able to be able to entertain the crowd now with her sense of humor.
Now that she’s selling out clubs and everyone in each room understands her loud and clear, Olsen is carrying forward at a brisk pace. At the Sinclair, she didn’t play her old songs beyond a few tracks from Burn Your Fire For No Witness, including “High-Five.” But this change is good, her releases from 2014 and before were marred by melancholy, and her vocals held back by pained cries that would possibly alienate her new fans. On record and on stage, MY WOMAN has shown her range, lyrically genre-wise, and that range is catching up with her increasing popularity.
Follow Jennifer Usovicz on Twitter @jausovicz.