After introducing the musicians in her band, Angel Olsen omitted her own name, remarking, “I’m still learning about who I am.” Maybe that’s true (as it is for most of us), but Olsen sounded completely confident in her musical identity as she performed Saturday night, Nov. 29, at Thalia Hall. As always, her voice was a wonder to behold, commanding everyone’s attention even when it was just a whisper. There’s nothing fussy or affected about the way she sings — it seems like that remarkable sound just naturally comes out of her. Her vocal style is cool, but it isn’t cold; there’s plenty of emotion pushing to break through even when her singing seems to be placid on the surface.
Her singing also has a timeless quality, with echoes of traditional English folk music and old-timey Americana as well as contemporary indie rock. As a result, Olsen’s performance on Saturday — featuring many songs from her great album from earlier this year, Burn Your Fire For No Witness — transcended genre. She played a couple of songs solo, bringing back memories of similarly intimate performances she gave a few years ago at Saki and the Burlington, back when she was still residing in Chicago.
But for most of the night, Olsen’s songs were shaped into subtle rock songs by her band: guitarist Stewart Bronaugh, bassist Emily Elhaj and drummer Josh Jaeger. For the first time, the band played a delightfully jangly cover of Jackie Deshannon’s classic 1963 song “When You Walk in the Room,” which was a hit for the Searchers in 1964. Commenting on how much she’s come to love playing with this group, Olsen said, “Basically, we’re all in a relationship now.”
The show also featured strong opening sets by the atmospheric indie-rockers Lionlimb (a band featured two members of Olsen’s group, Bronaugh and Jaeger) and the hard-riffing roots-rockers State Champion.