Angel Olsen in Vicar Street, Dublin, on Friday 19th June 2017
Friday night gig-goers, out for something to do and see the songs they know. Lesser known tracks be damned, they’ll chat over them if they like. With the above having a detrimental effect on both Talos’ recent Button Factory album launch and last December’s Overhead, The Albatross gig, you can understand the slight trepidation in the back of our heads as we approach Vicar Street for Angel Olsen’s latest Dublin appearance.
Before we get to the main event, Montreal’s Tim Darcy kicks things off, taking to the stage with just a guitar for company. His set meanders along lazily with little to hold the attention. Vocals drone over blocky, basic instrumentation, and the arrangements feel as though they were written with a full band in mind so they come across very much like demos when performed alone. As it turns out, a full band is his usual modus operandi so we can only wonder why they’re not present tonight. Either way we’re not too disappointed when he leaves for the main billing.
Olsen is giving this island a slightly more extensive tour than most – Dublin is her first stop, before heading down south for a stop at Cork’s Opera House and then backtracking up to Belfast.
Her band appears first – two guitar players, a bassist, a keyboardist and a drummer – all kitted out in retro powder-blue suits. Combined with the dangling tinsel backdrop that spans the width of the stage, it creates quite the look. Olsen follows to the stage before a laid-back drumbeat introduces us to tonight’s opener, Heart Shaped Face from last year’s excellent ‘My Woman’.
What will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Olsen is the strength of her voice. In a week where we tragically lost one of rock’s most unique voices with Chris Cornell, we’re given pause to appreciate the uniqueness of Olsen’s, both expressive and enchanting whilst commanding control of the entire room. With all of tonight’s performers staying firm-footed on stage, it’s Olsen’s most unique characteristic that leads this gig. Oh, and that chatty crowd we were sceptical about? Silenced throughout…not an easy task for even the most seasoned of artists.
Musically we’re brought on a journey through blues and folk with subtle touches of psychedelia. Folk lament Acrobat makes great use of her band as it morphs from a meandering slow journey into a wall of sound, as drums tumble and guitars crash. Sister pulls a similar move toward the end of its seven-plus minute runtime with a guitar solo that wouldn’t be out of place on ’70s AOR. Windows then has Olsen doing her best Stevie Nicks impression without it ever sounding like a rip-off.
There’s a feeling of restraint from participants and performers alike – the songs are delivered in a perfectly acceptable fashion, but it’s missing a spark and feels a little overly polite. Everyone in the room is paying attention but it’s having trouble kicking into gear, and an early airing of her most rousing song, Shut Up Kiss Me, reveals her hand a little too early. It’s not until Never Be Mine, a song from the first of two encores, that the energy levels perk back up before we’re let down gently with tonight’s closing track, The Waiting.