Photo by JOSH PELTA-HELLER
Somewhere from the back of Franklin Music Hall last night, a fan let out a blood-curdling “AN-GELLL” that sent an echo of similar calls and pleas for attention all the way up to the stage, where Angel Olsen stood in a black dress and a pair of cat ears, with mock whiskers painted on her face. She let the crowd’s wave of drunken Halloween nonsense fill the room, waiting for one brief quiet moment to say, “What other thoughts do you have? I’m ready.”
Standing before a crowd costumed in kitschy face paint, wigs, headdresses, glitter, and billowing outfits, Olsen made her third tour stop for her latest record All Mirrors in Philly last night, with a six-piece backing band spookily dressed in all-black. Surrounded by a cello, violin, Mellotron, keys, and the usual guitar-bass-drum combo, Olsen gave life to newly synthed-up songs like “New Love Cassette” and “Lark,” both off of her most recent album. Beams of light from the bottom of the stage sliced through the room with every build of the chorus from songs like “Spring” or “Summer,” in perfect synchronization with the bass and drums underneath Olsen’s croons.
But between these power anthems of learning to “love yourself without someone else,” as Olsen put it, were awkward bits of commentary, somewhat cheeky questions of whether or not to play some songs over again, and a general self-consciousness that suggested the first two stops of the tour had not gone too well. After going through a breakup midway through her tour for 2016’s MY WOMAN, Olsen’s more abstract turn toward producing sound that mirrors the deeper emotions of her lyrics instead of acting as catchy backdrops for them put on public display a new dimension of vulnerability. The jaded romance of her songs remains alive and well, but the music behind it is a break with the lo-fi allure of fan-favorite 2014 album Burn Your Fire For No Witness.
Still, Olsen puts on a good show. As orange balloons painted with white jack-o-lantern faces bounced over the crowd, her voice soared through high and low notes, carrying the soft-spoken melody of “Endgame” and the elevation of “Impasse” in a virtuosic soundscape for the broken-hearted. Accentuated by the violins and synthesizers, her voice tethered her new music to the old, illuminating the change and growth that she emphasizes throughout All Mirrors.
Though she took advantage of her full band as much as possible, Olsen still squeezed in a few crowd favorites, like the hit “Shut Up Kiss Me” etched into the brain of every fan of hers, and a solo rendition of “Unfucktheworld” that had the whole room singing along at equal volume. Before finishing the set, Olsen’s vulnerability shone through again when she abruptly stopped playing the intro of her final song to say, “Hey can we stop for a second? I’m sober, everything’s cool. I just wanted to say thank you. You guys are a good crowd. Now I’m gonna try to fuck shit up.” And indeed she did in the solo cover of Springsteen’s “Tougher Than the Rest” that followed.
Responding to a chorus of shrill screams of “ANGEL” from the crowd, Olsen returned to the stage with her band for a two-song encore of the All Mirrors closer “Chance” and her recent collaboration with Mark Ronson, “True Blue.” Following her lead, the band members left the stage one by one in the final outro of the latter, finally leaving the drummer and guitarist alone to kiss off the night with a wave of spinning disco rhythms that propelled the crowd into the dark allure of Halloween waiting outside. — SOPHIE BURKHOLDER