Show review: Angel Olsen at The Orange Peel

Photo by Edwin Arnaudin

Angel Olsen had plenty of reasons to be in a celebratory mood Saturday night. Back in her hometown for a Dec. 16 show at The Orange Peel, the singer-songwriter wrapped up a year and a half of touring with her band and expressed gratitude throughout the evening to Emily Elhaj (bass), Joshua Jaeger (drums), Heather McEntire (vocals/keys), Paul Sukeena (guitar) and fellow Ashevillean Luke Norton (guitar), whose birthday coincided with the concert.

Identically dressed in slim grey suits with black bolos and their dark hair also of near-uniform shoulder length, the ensemble’s look paired well with Olsen’s sleek, full-body golden space suit. Together, they crafted a consistent laid back sonic vibe of layered instrumentation, allowing for the frontwoman’s piercingly personal lyrics to shine all the more, delivered in her distinct and alluring warble.

Though the band opened (“Hi-Five”) and closed (“Windows”) the set with older Olsen songs, the focus was firmly on her 2016 critical darling My Woman. Seven of its 10 tracks made the cut, as did “Fly On Your Wall” from Phases, her recent collection of B-sides and rarities that’s as well-curated and sequenced as any of her official albums.

Confident and comfortable before the raptm capacity crowd, Olsen stuck primarily to rhythm guitar but showcased her instrumental versatility by accompanying McEntire at the synth table for an extended stretch. In sync as she and her bandmates were, however, the highlight of the night occurred during their brief exodus from the stage, ceding it to Olsen for an intimate solo take on “Some Things Cosmic.”

Returning for a welcome two-song encore, the ensemble donned humorous wigs and Olsen tossed a few wrapped presents into the crowd. Following a soulful take on The Velvet Underground’s “I Found a Reason,” nearly half the audience departed and others were on their way to the exit before the band came back, imploring those who remained to join them for “Special,” another Phases standout.

About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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One thought on “Show review: Angel Olsen at The Orange Peel

  1. luther blissett

    One of the shows of the year: tight as heck from months of touring, but loose and relaxed for the last gig in front of a homecoming crowd. I know that Olsen’s tinsel wig was a Kim’s Wig Shop special, so I’m guessing the rest of the band took advantage of the closing-down sale. Oh, and the bra.

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