"Olsen proved unstoppable in her projection of the human condition."
Angel Olsen is a powerhouse of indie-folk, her lyrics personal yet poignant, her voice an instrument of exceedingly affected beauty, her guitar a timeless reminder of the power of music. It was only fitting, then, that on the Missourian's return to Sydney she would play a packed-yet-intimate show in the iconic Sydney Opera House.
Returning to our shores to tour her latest album, My Woman, and backed by five, grey suit-clad musicians, Olsen proved unstoppable in her projection of the human condition. The first song, Never Be Mine, a catchy lament with Americana overtones, set the tone for this performance that delved into the many painful and exasperating moments of love, loss and life.
Hi-Five followed, beginning with the old country adage: "I feel so lonesome I could cry." This tune from her previous album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, was Hank Williams-meets-Joan Jett with ethereal vocals overlaid and a penetrating bass line to boot.
In Give It Up, Olsen played an uptempo and frustrated melody, capturing the calamity of blossoming love with short, sharp chords backed by rapid-fire snare fills and crashing cymbals, emphasised with the trebled refrain: "You're the one I'm thinking of."
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Songs like Shut Up Kiss Me and Sister, while different in tone, each bled with feeling from wordless refrains and transportational ensemble moments. Olsen's voice, at times spectral, others lovely and lilting, cut through the wistful blue wash and drenched the crowd in a nostalgic and pensive mood. As Intern signalled the encore, the two Korg keyboards heralded a wall of sound, accompanied by resounding and decaying vocals matching sombre, drawn-out chords. Sydney Opera House Studio felt cavernous as her bittersweet voice rose and fell between shadows. She made a final invocation through mauve lighting as warm chords stretched like sunset streaks over some great Midwestern plain.