Angel Olsen took the ache achieved on her latest album "All Mirrors" and turned it into a visual experience that helped bring the emotions to life when she played New Orleans.
Angel Olsen is a master of ethereal subtlety. She is known for her minimalism, but All Mirrors is a more decadent album than her older albums, and her set design at the Civic on November 5 executed this vision with stunning accuracy. Her show was an art installation that brought to life the winding heartache and intensity of her latest album.
At the back of the stage was the image of a beautiful, grand staircase, with jeweled garlands hanging from the ceiling. Her band came out dressed in all black, with Olsen dressed in a black, lacy corset with sheer long sleeves, short black shorts, fishnets, and black heels. The baseline set design was all black and white, but as “New Love Cassette” started, pink lighting washed the stage in a careful balancing act that she maintained throughout the show.
The show was tightly crafted around her new album with the first half coming entirely from All Mirrors. Her second song was the title track, followed by “Spring,” which introduced the more playful side of the show. When she moved into “Impasse,” the lighting on the stage went entirely red, drowning out any traces of the black and white design, and there were flashing lights timed to the drums. “Impasse” is haunting and off-putting sonically, and the light design for the song amplified this feeling. The audience clearly wasn’t meant to feel at ease in that moment, but she made them uneasy with subtlety and beauty.
All Mirrors is an album that fills more of the quiet spaces as it moves to and through heartache, and the show’s lighting design worked to depict this visually. The album relies heavily on string instruments, and the audience was eager for this part of the performance, cheering more aggressively with each moment the violin or cello was highlighted.
Olsen’s set was well-rounded in the same way her album is. Her album moves through seasons, and her show seemed to as well. She introduced “Lark” by saying, “I just have a bit more anger,” and during this song she and the audience were shouting their frustrations into the grandiose strings that backed the lyrics. Later, she performed “Summer,” a softer song that she accompanied with a warm, orange lighting. She performed her last pre-encore song entirely solo, no band or lighting to distract from the lyrics, and it felt as though she was grounding herself in the minimalism that started her.
Despite the show being meticulously crafted, Olsen engaged with her audience in a generous and playful way. She seemed to invite audience callback in the between-song lulls, and she responded to each comment with appreciation and love. She invited intimacy on multiple fronts, both in sadness and playfulness.
She began her encore with “Chance,” which is a beautifully matter-of-fact ending, and the audience fell into its heartache. But rather than ending here, she closed with “True Blue,” her collaboration with Mark Ronson from his Late Night Feelings. She ended the show singing, “I run to you / I run to you / I run to you, and you know why,” and this choice gave the show a future-oriented finale that looked to something good.