Angel Olsen’s fire burns for SF at Great American Music Hall


By Katy Meacham //

Angel Olsen with Cian Nugent //
Great American Music Hall — San Francisco
Monday March 3rd, 2014 //

On a rainy Monday night at The Great American Music Hall, a large crowd gathered together for a cozy evening with Cian Nugent and Angel Olson.

Cian Nugent, a young guitarist and composer from Dublin, started the evening with lovely guitar picking and atmospheric melodies. Many of his songs were instrumental while others he sang over in a soft voice. His whimsical songs played out over the crowd as everyone began to settle in. It all felt very appropropriate for the historic venue, and for a moment we were all taken to another moment in time.

Up next was Angel Olson and her band. The indie singer-songwriter started her set with a single, “High-Five”, from her new album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness. It being one of the more upbeat and energetic songs on the album, it was a kicking opener, her voice crystal clear impressed immediately. One of the most remarkable things about Olson’s voice is how it changes in a moment’s time. One second you’re listening to an old country singer, reminiscent of Emmylou Harris and Jolie Holland, then suddenly she’s whispering, throaty, or both. She has complete control.

She focused on the new album, almost entirely. For most songs Olsen was backed by a three-piece band. She intertwined more up-tempo songs like, “Stars” and “Forgiven/Forgotten” with slower, more personal songs, never allowing the energy to build too much. There was a deliberate pause between each song as she sipped her beer and made the audience truly digest each song. Her slower songs echoed over the silenced crowd.

It’s not only her voice that can capture the audience, but also the intimacy of her lyrics. You almost want to thank her for sharing. Her songs of love lost or personal grief sink in deep, and they are things we can all relate to. For her last song of the night, “White Fire”, she played it alone. The song is reminiscent of Leonard Cohen’s guitar picking and deliberate lyrics. It was so quiet and personal, and also happens to be the namesake for the album. “If you’ve still got some light in you/Then go before it’s gone/Burn your fire for no witness/It’s the only way it’s done.” This seems inherently Angel Olson, songs about acceptance and truth with small glimpses of hope. Thank you for sharing Angel, seriously, thank you.

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