Angel Olsen Brings Grit and Intimacy at Soldout Union Transfer Show

Featured photos by Juliane McCue

I had the pleasure of going to see Angel Olsen and Aussie-opener Alex Cameron at their sold out Union Transfer show on Wednesday, September 14th. Angel recently released her stunning third album My Woman on Jagjaguwar Records which I fell in love with when I reviewed it for Rock On Philly here.

Having never seen Angel perform live before, I was pleasantly surprised to find that she had a full six-piece backing band, all dressed in matching jean outfits and bolo ties. Her new album has obviously got some hype among publications because there were quite a few professional cameras in the crowd. At one point, she commented “the last time we were in Philadelphia, a couple people showed up,” to the sold-out crowd, “so this is really cool.”

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Standout songs at the beginning of the set included the same ones that initially jumped out at me on the album, especially “Heart Shaped Face.” The whole crowd was swaying with the breezy “Those Were the Days” and older fans were happy to find she played some of her classic tunes like “Forgiven/Forgotten” and “Lights Out.” Angel found the perfect balance of both edge and softness throughout the night exemplified by the careful placement of songs in the setlist.

 

Halfway through the show, Angel admitted to the audience that she was nervous, but I couldn’t tell a bit. I almost wondered if it was just a way of humbling herself because Angel and the band seemed to get lost in the music set to soft lighting and swooping guitar riffs. They’d often catch each other’s eyes and start laughing, almost forgetting where they were. “Don’t mind us, we’re just trying to play a show up here.”

 

“How’s your bum, how’s your legs doin’? Just work it out.”

 

I was surprised to hear “Give It Up” as the closing song before the encore. The song never particularly stood out to me on the album, but it definitely provided an up-beat ending and that she’s still got that classic Angel Olsen grunge. Still, my favorite part of the night was when she slowed down and you get to hear her voice just ricochet over the music. She did this in the encore with the second single of the album “Intern.” She stripped the song down to just her and a bandmate in front of two keyboards and a guitarist, no backing band. I can’t describe it any other way than spiritual. It was a slow rendition that could be described only as a single voice with the resonance of a choir echoing off the walls of a cathedral. “Still gotta wake up and be someone” she sang in a haunting vibrato as it rang through the entire venue, silencing everyone.

 

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When some drunk asshole in the audience demanded that she “go eat a cheesesteak,” Angel looked up with a devious glint in her eye and said “I will.” Then she made a little kissing noise into the microphone which made everyone laugh and applaud.

 

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Often Angel would make eye contact with her backup singer while they harmonized and the sound was breathtaking. You could tell the band was really together and the sound was just as striking live. It’s refreshing these days to know a band can sound the same or even better than the studio recordings, which is extra impressive considering My Woman was recorded entirely live.

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Lovely surprise of the night was how much I enjoyed the opener, Alex Cameron. Signed to Secretly Canadian along with artists like Cherry Glazerr and The War on Drugs, Cameron’s set and music was nothing like the latter. He came out clad in a velvet suit with a peculiar set of dance moves, rather stopping and posing on almost every beat. His heavily 80’s-influenced synth tracks and baritone voice along with side-kick Roy Malloy on saxophone made for a very entertaining performance. Not to mention, he’s got a starkly similar silhouette to David Bowie. I can’t stop listening to the new album Jumping The Shark since seeing it performed live. Get a preview of the dancing below:

Angel Olsen, My Woman

Alex Cameron, Jumping The Shark

Angel Olsen Setlist

  1. Never Be Mine
  2. Hi-Five
  3. Lights Out
  4. Heart Shaped Face
  5. Sister
  6. Those Were the Days
  7. Drunk and with Dreams
  8. Fly
  9. Acrobat
  10. Not Gonna Kill You
  11. Sweet Dreams
  12. Forgiven/Forgotten
  13. Give It Up

Encore

  1. Woman

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