Angel Olsen at Pabst: A Review

Angel Olsen performed in Milwaukee for the first time on Thursday, June 16 at the Pabst Theater. She’s one of those artists I had been dying to see live for quite some time, mainly due to her other-worldly set of lungs. Occasionally, I hear a voice so spectacular that I want to witness it live on a stage, for a recorded version pales in comparison.

Olsen is a singer and songwriter typically classified in the indie/folk genre, but the more I listen, the more her rich country, almost twangy roots, poke their heads up. This is the first thing I noticed as Olsen began singing tracks from her three full-length records. I was expecting her voice to be full, melodic and deep as it appeared recorded, but the higher pitch and sheer force of volume took me by surprise. Olsen’s voice could probably fill Grand Central Station, and it turned Pabst’s moderately sized theater space into a personal serenade. I could feel the vibrations of her voice through my fingers clenched to my beer cup. The girl was a goddamn force.

She played mainly with her band and closed solo, strumming her guitar and using her rich, complex vocals to explore the depth in what she called her “sad” songs. One of the most attractive aspects of her performance was her lighthearted attitude toward her songs–almost playfully picking on them for being so dark. “I’ll try not to laugh,” Olsen said, just moments before she began “White Fire.” “Everything is tragic, it all just falls apart…” were the opening lyrics. Instead of cracking a smile or stifling a giggle, Olsen’s voice rang deep and true in a slowed-down but never breathy, always bold, emotional performance.

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