Show Review: Angel Olsen at the Phoenix Concert Theatre

By Anisa Moquit, Photos By Anisa Moquit25993336_10214629896516452_629969940_o.jpg

Angel Olsen’s return to Toronto was triumphant, as she performed two sold out shows at the Phoenix Theatre. I was obsessive enough a fan to have caught her on both nights. Olsen wastouring in support of the release of Phases this year—a compilation album of B-sides and rarities, a veritable treasure trove of unreleased material spanning from as early as her first EP, 2010’s Strange Cacti to her third 2016 album My Woman. On Phases, Olsen demonstrates her genre bending talents and reaffirms her position as an exceptional songwriter. On both nights, Angel’s heavenly voice (pardon the pun) enthralled the audience.

The opener, psychedelic-rock group Heron Oblivion, were skilled, and played a set that made  you want to listen to them as soon as you got home. They were equal parts self-contained and intense, as singer/drummer Meg Braid’s ethereal voice skated over the explosive guitar riffs and feedback.

The instrumental to “Intern” from My Woman prefaced Olsen’s entry on both nights. Eerie synths and the darkened staged built an atmosphere taut with excitement. Her accompanying band entered in matching suits of light grey followed by Olsen herself, dressed in a skintight golden catsuit with immaculate winged eyeliner. They launched immediately into “Hi-Five,” the most country-sounding song from her 2014 album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness.  Olsen sang to the audience, testing the enthusiasm of the room. “Are you lonely too?” She crooned.

“Hi Five! / So am I!” the crowd answered, indicating that we were in her grasp for the rest of the night.

Olsen performed crowd pleaser “Shut Up Kiss Me” second on both nights, strategically getting it out of the way before proceeding to a set consisting mostly of material from My Woman, with some older material thrown in between. The tight set really showcased Olsen’s voice, as it soared over the stage and touched every corner of the room. Tracks like “Sister” and “Heart Shaped Face” were brought to life with such gorgeous tenderness that it was difficult to stay dry-eyed. “Those Were the Days” and “Woman” seemed to induce a trance like state over the audience while the more energetic, “Not Gonna Kill You” inspired a feverish reaction with lyrics “It’s not gonna break you/ Its just gonna shake you,” sung in Olsen’s ascendant voice.

Both nights her solo set remained the same as she performed “Sans,” a track from Phases, followed by “unfucktheworld.” The repeated lyrics, “I am the only one now/ you may not be around” sung so determinedly and fiercely seemed like Olsen was imparting a special message to the crowd, and giving valuable life advice.

Throughout her performance, I was struck by how powerful Olsen truly was. It is not just her voice that affects the audience, but the undeniable strength of her songwriting skills. Her ability to so deftly capture pain and sadness, and portray it with such sensitivity and the occasional irreverence, is singular. The release of Phases followed by this show only served to remind me of how Olsen is a truth teller (the likes of which other artists strive to be), however it comes naturally to her.

On the second show night, through sheer luck and being in the right place at the right time, I had the incredible luck to speak to Olsen for a few moments. I was too awestruck to be able to muster up anything articulate to say, but another fan asked her how she felt about being pigeonholed in the media. Olsen joked about how critics liked to think she draws her inspiration from the mountains, and was happy to talk about her cat Violet, in the cold with fans. What an Angel.25993235_10214629896476451_1393742350_o.jpg

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