ACL Review: Angel Olsen

An operatic Patti Smith or just a daydream?

Four songs into her overcast set late Saturday afternoon, Angel Olsen removed her jumbo Seventies sunglasses. Rubbing her eyes and playfully asking, “What day is it? Is it Saturday?,” the songwriter awakened from a dream and entered another of her own ethereal making.

Photo by Shelley Hiam

A jumpsuited Princess Peach with Brigitte Bardot’s hairstyle, the Asheville-based singer led a comparatively modest Miller Lite gathering into her daydream. Her velvety croon cast a haze of unspecified vintage over the set. Olsen’s backers donned matching blue suits and bolo ties.

The group’s timed dropouts throughout the set allowed room for the bandleader’s big, powerfully wavering voice to fill the space. Olsen did so with bemused ease, launching soaring melodies out of an open grin. Curt demands on “Give It Up” sliced with extra cheek, as if the 30-year-old’s confidence had only gone up since putting the song to tape.

Having moved toward rock & roll with last year’s transitional My Woman, Olsen matched the shift with an irreverent stage presence. Kicking off any inkling of a folksy, sad-girl persona, she waxed sassy in the day’s accrued heat. Wrapping up “Those Were the Days,” she questioned to the crowd.

“Is this even real? I feel like the melting clock in that painting, man. The 2017 election....”

Her faux-trippy moment faded into a self-satisfied cackle. Something punk lived in her completely unabashed female performance, oft accented by shredding guitars. Suddenly, the artist’s tonally shaped ooh’s and aah’s sounded like an operatic Patti Smith.

Olsen concluded her performance with 2013 cut “Sweet Dreams,” a warbly farewell:

“The time will come
For everyone to go and say goodbye.
Sweet dreams, sleep tight.”

With that, the audience awoke to its own reality, released from Angel Olsen’s conducted reverie.

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Angel Olsen, ACL Fest 2017, Patti Smith, Princess Peach, Brigitte Bardot

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