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Angel Olsen Quiets Barboza with Otherworldly Voice

Posted by March 10th, 2014 3 Comments »

Angel Olsen Live @ Barboza 
Saturday, March 7, 2014 

Barboza is easy to love. If you haven’t been to the venue before, it quietly sits beneath Neumos and Moe Bar and, on Friday night, the rest of the hum of yet another busy weekend for the Pike/Pine corridor. The venue occasionally offers earlier shows (starting at 7 p.m. and ending around 10 p.m. ); their lineups are generally artists on the cusp of greatness, in the rare “Why aren’t these guys more famous?!” category.

Opening the show with Seattle-based singer/songwriter/piano-whisperer, Shenandoah Davis, was a perfect way to set the tone for the rest of the night. Davis’ voice is lovely, sounding as though each word she sings is in cursive. About halfway through the set, she brought out her husband and former Harvey Danger frontman, Sean Nelson to duet with her for a few songs. Their voices complimented one another nicely and added a friendly dynamic to the set. Davis recently completed a tour in New Zealand and is headed to SXSW this week.

Cian Nugent, a guitarist from the U.K., performed next, offering a mostly instrumental set of smoky, 70s-influenced noodling. He spoke between a few songs, briefly letting us know it was his first time to Seattle and thanking the crowd for their support, but simply let his music speak for itself. While enjoyable, Nugent’s performance seemed to underwhelm sections of the crowd who, unfortunately, were talking over his songs. He sang over is final tune, a bleak and somber song, before politely exiting the stage.

Angel Olsen and her three-piece band promptly began at 9:15 p.m., showcasing the larger sound offered on the artist’s most recent album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, and altering the laid-back vibe of the venue. The set-list was mostly songs from the album, with a few older jams peppered in (greeted by “FUCK YES!”s from the audience when they began) for good measure.

I’m not sure when or where Angel Olsen exactly made a deal with the devil, but her decision to sell her soul in order to gain an otherworldly voice that washes over the crowd like a rich wave of honey was definitely worth it. For the first third of her set, I stood with my mouth agape. The rest of her band left Olsen onstage with an acoustic guitar for the last few songs, which gave her closing songs more intimacy and really highlighted her strengths as a musician. She was quieter but more impactful, staring at the noisy crowd near the bar until audience members on the border of the group started to tell them to shut up. By the time she started her final song, the seven-minute long, “White Fire”, the din settled into a curious silence, seemingly as encouragement for Olsen to never stop singing.

And then it was over. No encore, just memories.

(Editor’s note: Photo by Kurt Stauffer.) 

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