“I dare you to understand what makes me a woman,” Angel Olsen echoed during her encore at night one of a two-night, sold-out stint at Thalia Hall in Pilsen. Those lyrics seemed to capture the entire evening though, for her 90-minute set crossed the bridge from female infatuation and memorable “firsts” to that of a woman tired of playing around. She’s a woman with a plan and a voice who’s not afraid to put either in play.
Playing a set heavy with tracks from her new album, the expansive and stellar “My Woman,” Olsen and her tailored-suit, bolo-tie wearing band breathed electrifying life into songs like “Not Gonna Kill You,” “Give It Up,” the synth-building “Intern” and the blazon, pop-perfect “Shut Up Kiss Me.” Slyly smiling from the stage, she was as eager to interact with her players as she was with the crowd.
“We’re all on a date right now,” she joked when a fan began shouting from the crowd. “I’ll see you after the show.”
While her performance style is still more reserved than most and without any gimmicks or distracting flash, the attitude that drips from her vocals to her fingertips as she plays guitar has given her a seemingly new, beaming outlook on being the “rockstar” she knows she’s been (again, another fantastic Angel soundbite due to an overzealous fan). Songs like “Hi-five” and “Forgiven/Forgotten” from 2014’s “Burn Your Fire For No Witness” packed a much tougher punch than they used to. Now, it’s as though the “Oh I’m stuck with you” declaration in “Hi-five” comes from a place of being tied down or settling when there was so much left to be done, while Olsen all but raced through the “Will you ever forgive me/a thousand times through/for loving you?” ending “Forgiven/Forgotten.”
For her, it had already been forgotten and looking forward was much too important to nuance such a lyric.
Still, Angel Olsen remains at her absolute best when she’s deep in it with just her guitar. “Windows” begins as vulnerable as ever before soaring into a sea of languid guitars, their hollow echo filling the space where Olsen’s soft falsetto once was. Even the bluesy, haunting “Heart-Shaped Face” was more-or-less stripped down to emphasize the intimacy Olsen and her guitar could create, her voice more than capable of hypnotizing you in place.
Brazilian-born Rodrigo Amarante, previously of Little Joy fame/currently the singer of Netflix’s “Narcos” theme song, opened the show. His soothing vocals, with lyrics often sang in Portuguese, sent a beautiful hush over the crowd. For just a guy up there with a guitar, his beautiful compositions paired with his hilarious facial expressions and heart-felt stage banter were more than captivating.