The cavernous surround of the SWG3 Studio is a perfect canvas for Angel Olsen’s dry, sultry attitude. Although Glasgow’s way of showing affection is perhaps misinterpreted by this North Carolina-based artist, her standoffish appeal only makes the audience more enamoured. Touring her latest album My Woman, Olsen is no longer the ‘Acrobat’ she used to be in Half Way Home, no longer precariously hurdling obstacles but rather consciously stripping her emotions to their bare flesh.
Supporting act Little Wings join in for much of her European tour. An unnatural pairing for the both the venue and Angel Olsen herself, their sound emulates something between Bill Callahan and Cat Stevens, doing neither of them any favours. Their ‘warmup’ is homely but does not add any creativity, only drawing attention to the time spent on our feet and an impatience for the main act. Exchanging a guitar for a beer towards the end, anything to prove how carefree they are, only further draws into question why they have been chosen in the first place. They finish their set without applause from an unreceptive audience.
After a long changeover, Olsen enters with her band, donning grey jackets and bolo ties. From the beginning Olsen’s powerful voice and presence command both the stage and audience. Angel Olsen’s presentation is simple. There are stage lights, but nothing distracting: a simplicity that gives focus to her heartfelt lyrics. Although personal to Olsen there is little emotional investment until the end of the set. With some dry humour she gives her band a smile and the audience a chuckle, but she does not spend much time away from the music. The cool manner in which she conducts herself gives the night an understated appeal, showing how normal she is.
She opens with ‘Never Be Mine’, an upbeat indie melody with lyrics recognising an unrequited affection. Although these may not be new concerns, there is a sense of the frustration of helplessness that she has accepted.
Her set is dotted with tracks from her previous album Burn Your Fire For No Witness but also featuring a favourite, ‘Acrobat’, demonstrating what has passed over these four years. This is contrasted with the rocky abrasiveness of ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’ a sound that fills the room with a growing exasperation as she demands affection. Interestingly, in her desire to be someone special she dwells on the affection shown to mothers, revealing an innate jealousy for such connection with her lover. She pays homage to mothers as she introduces her track ‘Heart Shaped Faces’, directed at the male-dominated audience.
As someone in the audience throws a note onto the stage, a lazy-eyed (but piercing) stare and a dry, “good luck getting that read”, reminds everyone that this is no confession.
Photo: Grimy Goods