Angel Olsen / Little Wings @ SWG3, 15 Oct

Live Review by Katie Hawthorne | 20 Oct 2016

A lot’s been said (and written) about Angel Olsen’s phenomenal new record My Woman, but to see is to truly, deeply believe: a 1000+ sold-out crowd at SWG3 will attest that Olsen’s autumn tour is already a lap of honour.

It’s Saturday night, and the warehouse is swollen with excitable, noisy punters. Seasoned California-based singer songwriter Little Wings puts in a charming turn, but resorts to occasional pleas for silence that see “ssssh”s reverberate from the front to the back. By the time Olsen and her many-membered band take to the stage, the room still feels unsettled, yet to be won. Luckily – or, obviously – Angel Olsen knows exactly how to handle unruly voices.

Her hair is teased to a height that Dolly Parton would give a tentative thumbs-up, and the band are dressed in sharp powder blue, replete with bolo ties. The alt country twang to the artful wobble in Olsen’s voice strikes your soul even harder than it does on record, and opener Never Be Mine feels dusted down and spiked with extra gravel. Hi-Five (from 2014’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness) and recent single Shut Up Kiss Me follow suit – powerful choices from Olsen’s apparently endlessly rich songbook.

As the band pause, Olsen picks up an object from the stage floor. “I don’t like things thrown at me,” she says, completely poised, and flies through Lights Out before throwing the scrunched up piece of paper back into the crowd twice as hard. Long term listeners will know all they need to from Olsen’s music, and tonight the sentiments of Heart Shaped Face feel razor sharp – and sound utterly flooring. Every detail is crystal clear, each guitar is perfectly employed, and Olsen’s backing vocalist offers shadowed howls that offset her wry lyricism and achieve complete heartbreak in the process. Sweet Dreams is dedicated to all of our mums, and the shifting, surging pace of Sister is staggering, a true, once-in-a-lifetime rarity.

The set wraps up, all too soon, with Give It Up, and Olsen leaves the stage while the rest of her band storm an extended play-out. The venue’s concrete pillars shake as the warehouse pleads for an encore, and as the band agree to just one more tune, a hoarse voice shouts out a hearty “We love you!” Again, Olsen pauses: “Do you mean it? We’ll see.”