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Live Review: Angel Olsen, Jack Ladder

12 December 2016 | 1:13 pm | Rick Bryant

"She displayed a warmth and humour that belied those dark, intense eyes."

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Performing tonight without his usual supporting cast of The Dreamlanders, Jack Ladder delivered a commanding show built mostly on his superb, captivating baritone. The inherent darkness that characterises much of his work is only amplified by the absence of other instrumentation, an effect typified by the execution of Hurtsville. Ordinarily given significant legs by a driving beat, here it was hauntingly carried only by sparse, reverberating guitar work and that deep, emotive voice. Pockets of space between tracks gave Ladder the opportunity to inject some levity to the night, as he did when drawing parallels between the interior of Badlands Bar and a souvlaki joint he holds dear.

Last seen at the 2015 Laneway Festival backed by some murderous afternoon heat, Angel Olsen was thankfully given a more accommodating setting for her return. Propelled by the release of the acclaimed My Woman, Olsen and her five-piece band kicked off with Never Be Mine and didn't take a backward step. There was power and harmony, two facets that aren't immediately evident on her records but which would come to define this set. Shut Up Kiss Me was predictably received with great ovation, but it was by no means the centrepiece on which the show was arranged. In fact, it lacked the freedom that other tracks, such as the wonderful Sister, gave Olsen to unleash the incredibly powerful voice she has developed over the years. Here it never wavered, and she shifted effortlessly between dynamics and vocal ranges, combining beautifully with her backing singer. It took some time before any utterances were proffered, but when Olsen did open up she displayed a warmth and humour that belied those dark, intense eyes that carry a weight all of their own. In keeping with other sets on this tour, Olsen returned at set's end to finish with Intern and Woman, the first blending into the next and finishing with a muscular, stunning blend of voices and instruments that capped a magnificent performance.