Local Current Blog

Review and photos: Angel Olsen turns First Avenue into her own immersive world

Angel Olsen. (Photos by Helen Teague/MPR)

The loudest moment of Angel Olsen’s Tuesday night show at First Avenue came a few songs into her set at the end of “Lark.” The tune concluded with Olsen’s husky vocals echoing the phrase “dream on” over a sparse drum beat and a bass line that resembled a heartbeat. It was impossible to hear the phrase without being reminded of Aerosmith’s classic ballad, but it would be equally impossible to confuse the two songs. In this way, the song provides a snapshot for the entirety of Angel Olsen’s sonic palette, pulling from the past but reaching towards the future.

Angel Olsen has been releasing her distinctive brand of indie rock from the better part of a decade. At the beginning of October, she released her fifth studio album, All Mirrors. The release of this record marked a point of definite growth in the singer songwriter’s trajectory as an artist. While her previous albums pulled from a lo-fi, folk-rock aesthetic; All Mirrors embraces lush, orchestral sounds. The album maintains Olsen’s characteristic jaded lyrics about love and her distinctive vocal styling. There’s something about the timbre of her voice that feels like it’s tumbling out of an AM radio that forces the listener to hold onto each word, and this was palpable throughout the crowd at First Avenue.

The grandeur of the set matched the ornate nature of All Mirrors. Behind Olsen and her band were two large panels that looked like the interior of a Victorian house, complete with lavish wall paper and crown molding. Overhead, several crystal garlands were draped across the ceiling. The light bounced off individual beads making for an effect that was part chandelier and part disco ball. Her live band included the usual drums, bass, guitar and keys, but also included cello and violin, amplifying the moodiness of the show even further. (Listen to Olsen’s performance at The Current, recorded yesterday afternoon.) In the center of it all, Olsen stood calmly, masterfully conducting the orchestra of musicians around her.

Though many fans of Olsen found their way to her music with past albums like 2014’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness and 2016’s No Woman, it took nearly an hour for her setlist to expand beyond All Mirrors. The artist created an immersive world in the heartache and angst of her recent album, and her set didn’t depart from that world often. Just five of the songs of the 15 song setlist spanned other moments in her career, and this made each one of them feel like a special treat, an inside secret between longtime listeners and Olsen.

One particular highlight was during the lovelorn anthem “Shut Up Kiss Me.” Olsen’s face beamed in an electric smile from the beginning notes of the song and the audience followed suit, yelling along to the now iconic chorus “shut up, kiss me, hold me tight.” She ended the set playing the incredibly raw “Unf*cktheworld” on stage alone. The songwriter standing along in the midst of the elaborate set pieces and piles of instruments illustrated her appeal, the radical vulnerability that her fans have come to appreciate. Olsen and her band returned for a brief encore including the wistful “Chance” and an unexpected pick to end the night – a cover of Mark Ronson’s “True Blue,” a song released this summer featuring Angel Olsen’s vocals. Equal parts melancholy and hopeful, the track perfectly concluded the night.

Opener Vagabon (Laetitia Tamko) set the mood for the night with a serene and intimate set. Her powerful brand of indie rock suited the night flawlessly. Playing songs off self titled album as well as 2017’s Infinite Worlds. Her performance demanded the full attention of new listeners and old as she sung about independence and self-discovery.

Angel Olsen setlist
New Love Cassette
All Mirrors
Sweet Dreams
Shut Up Kiss Me
True Blue


Angel Olsen