Published Nov 17, 2019Angel Olsen came to Toronto ready to fight. A well-meaning, but somewhat unruly crowd; whatever lurked in the "haunted" basement of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre — she was anything but passive to the obstacles that came her way. The hecklers and banter simply couldn't overshadow the stunning, nearly two-hour performance.
You might know Angel Olsen as a folk-rock critics darling and highly talented singer-songwriter. All Mirrors was released in October, in a "post-genre" era. So it makes sense that the St. Louis native has hung a disco ball above herself and turned to violin and cello to create a truly cinematic sound. The live experience brings it all together in a performance that's nothing short of mesmerising.
She stepped out onto the stage following her band — a four-piece with a two-piece string accompaniment — eliciting cheers followed by respectful silence, as they opened with "New Love Cassette." The next six songs were also All Mirrors cuts. The performance felt cohesive that way, with the dramatic strings and harsh percussion complementing spectacular, almost violent stage lighting.
The Queen Elizabeth Theatre is a seated venue — rare for smaller spaces in Toronto, which are usually general admission. Maybe some crowd members got restless, or maybe it's just the reality that audiences want to fill the silence, but when there were breaks between songs, the hecklers became vocal.
"Play something from Strange Cacti," one yelled. "Do an album with Mitski," another shouted during the middle of the show. Olsen engaged: "Do you want to come up here? The house is packed and you didn't pack it." The heckler came up onstage, was promptly met by boos and then fled. "I've been doing this for seven years," Olsen said light-heartedly.
She did end up playing "Some Things Cosmic," from her debut EP Strange Cacti, and other older beloved, guitar-driven tracks such as "Acrobat" and "Unfucktheworld." It seemed to be on her own terms as opposed to giving in to fans. Olsen understands the power of throwing in a few crowd favourites without them having to tell her.
She closed the show with her Mark Ronson-assisted disco track, "True Blue." It was one of two moments during the show (the other being "Shut Up Kiss Me") that people filled the aisles, dancing to the music in a venue that doesn't really allow for it readily.
Angel Olsen is not going to cater to what a fan screaming in the audience wants. She's always stuck to her artistic beliefs and done what has felt true to her own experiences. Somehow, though, fans always leave satisfied.