Angel Olsen's rising star passed through Denver last night for a packed performance at the Larimer Lounge. The singer-songwriter's latest album, "Burn Your Fire for No Witness," has been riding a wave of accolades from the indie rock community for about a month now (check out our review of the album here).
While the somber folk contemplation of debut "Half Way Home" remains a pillar of Olsen's music on "Burn Your Fire," the addition of a three-piece rock band gave tracks like opener "Forgiven/Forgotten" a newfound razor-sharp edge to Olsen's acerbic lyrics, both live and on record.
At the intimate Larimer Lounge, the country tinges of Olsen's vocals gained prominence, particularly on standout "Lights Out" and the darkly comic "Hi-Five," which kicks off with a Hank Williams line. Olsen's voice, sans any backing vocals, was unquestionably the sole centerpiece all night, and the songwriter took full advantage of the limelight. Her ability to switch gears between a track like the delicate "Iota" and the rugged "Stars" while maintaining a steady emotiveness wows on the album, but even more so in concert.
But Olsen's shifts weren't exactly loud-to-quiet: both of those adjectives oversimplify the singer's aura. Both her high vibrato and low guttural tones proved resoundingly tough, even when delivering weakened and downtrodden lyrics.
Aptly, Olsen closed out the show with three acoustic numbers, including B-side "California." In lieu of an actual encore, the backing band left the stage, leaving the singer to pierce the audience with an icy stare and unabashed solo set for fifteen more mesmerizing minutes.
Irish guitarist Cian Nugent played an excellent opening set, despite battling a fierce cold. Nugent stuck mostly to unaccompanied guitar instrumentals, displaying an effortless dexterity across the fretboard reminiscent of John Fahey or Yes guitarist Steve Howe.