Somewhere in the middle of Angel Olsen’s ever climbing 90 minute set, a passionate member of the crowd joyfully shouted out “You’re a rockstar now!” Olsen smiled and quickly retorted, “I always was!” Although she quickly covered up her line with one of self deprecation over being born in ’87, something about her initial response rings incredibly true. People are rediscovering her through her latest album “My Woman” and once again acknowledging Olsen’s refusal to be pigeon holed into any singular label. It’s strange to see because it feels like she’s always been like that, barging past expectations and delivering amazing musical results. Her performance at a sold out Thalia Hall this past Tuesday underlined that sentiment of “I always was” and added a hefty dose of “always will be”.
Rodrigo Amarante came to the the stage first to open up the night. Although Amarante has a storied and impressive career, from Los Hermanos to Little Joy (!), I figured that most people would know him from “Tuyo”, his title credits song contribution to Narcos. Usually a song with that much exposure can supersede an artist, making it seem like that’s the only song anyone wanted to hear. I feared that this would be the caseas the crowd in the back was loud and bustling, doing their own thing. However those towards the front of the stage were entranced by Amarante’s commanding voice and entertaining attitude and after his first song that spread to the rest of Thalia Hall. Amarante smiled toward the crowd and even playfully flirted with those in the opera boxes, but when the songs become serious and powerful, so did his demeanor. Amarante’s set defied my assumption of the crowd as every one of his songs garnered the receptive applause they deserved, no matter what language they were in.
Amarante’s tender voice swam between English, Portuguese, Spanish, and a little French with ease. It was difficult not to be captivated by him with only his guitar and voice standing starkly at center stage. Every syllable that emerged from his mouth had a such a strong emotion behind it, pushing out these melodic songs and demanding they be felt with the same passion. “Hourglass” in particular elicited a big response from the audience. He returned the gesture, continually thanking the crowd with a genuine appreciation for their attention. Amarante finished his time with “The Ribbon”, leaving the crowd an ideal setup to Angel Olsen’s set with the song’s line “Classifieds will never show/What the aces do/To the queen of hearts.”
There was no doubt the Angel Olsen was going to put on an amazing show. Thalia Hall was packed to the brim with excited fans for the first of two long sold out shows in support of her fantastic album “My Woman”. A hush came upon the crowd as her band slowly made their way to the stage. Olsen, who was talkative throughout the night couldn’t help but comment on the quietness, unsure if it was reverence or some other occurrence that had caused it. The fact of the matter was the crowd was in awe of her presence and fully prepare to taken in the night’s performance.
Olsen’s set turned out to be exponentially rewarding. The first half was dedicated to quieter and calmer songs from her repertoire. She embraced her folk singer roots with songs like “Acrobat” and “Heart Shaped Face”, placing the focus her hypnotic voice and intricate guitar work. There were pockets of exuberance peppered throughout the beginnings of the set that were slowly building up to something grander. It was during her performance of a yet to be released song where Olsen and her band came together in the first big explosive performance. Olsen’s voice rose higher and felt more robust than before, singing “I want be special like your mother” with a certain pointed edge that would continue on the rest of the night.
The latter part of her set was intent on blowing everyone away with her new songs and vibrant stage presence, even when the overly enthusiastic crowd butted in. A guy yelled out for her in between songs and Olsen came right back at him, joking “we’re all on a date tonight. So far I’m swiping right!” She was poised but ready to have a good time as she turned in explosive performances of older songs like “Forgiven/Forgotten”, making them match up with the intensity of “Not Gonna Kill You”. There were still moments of beautiful serenity that came out, such as as the tender rendition of “Windows”, it was clear that Olsen was on a mission to excel in electrifying performances. The ascension of the show continued even after Olsen exited the stage during ” Give It Up”, letting her band play her out to a rousing end.
As the crowd refused to settle, Olsen returned to the stage She traded in her guitar for the keys that sat beside her the entire evening to delve into a gripping final two songs. “Intern” was the first to emerge with only half of her band in tow. The basks in the possibilities, singing of eventual love one last time with a sense of ambiguous hope. The song waved along and lead the way for the rest of the band to join in for “Woman”, a song metered by pained emotions and a tear down of assumptions. Olsen’s voice rose and shook and it was as if everything lead up to the congruence of this moment, of these two songs working off one another, to a point where everything felt complete.
All photographs by Julian Ramirez