Angel Olsen Serenades First Avenue


Photos and Words by Laura Buhman

Singer and composer Nona Invie opened the show with a gorgeous solo set behind the keys. If you’ve been paying attention to the local music scene, you have probably heard Dark Dark Dark, RONiiA, or Anonymous Choir. Invie has been involved in all of those projects among many others. The performance was one that you’d want to lean in and listen to closely. There’s a lot of meaning and heart in the music. The local connection made me feel lucky – like we were in on something special for us.

As I walked through the crowd I was so appreciative of how much everyone was enjoying the introspective and gorgeous music. A set that focused can sometimes be lost on a chatty audience. Instead, it was soaked in and raved about. A cover of “Zombie” by The Cranberries was an unexpected treat!

Angel Olsen appeared onstage behind her 4 band members – including Nona Invie. She seemed ready, but a bit nervous as she looked around the room. She secured her guitar around her gorgeous draped silver and black gown and began to play.

Her voice is one that stuns me equally at its loudest, most delicate, and in between. It was a wonder that someone with her talent could ever be nervous. She confirmed my suspicion that she might be by just coming out and saying so. She asked for the lights to dim after the second song and took us away though a 90-minute set that had me standing in awe the entire time.

She was witty between songs. Her dark and dry humor got the crowd engaged and laughing, and the songs sucked us back in. During “Forgiven/Forgotten” she sang “If only, if only I had nothing more to say” and added with a cheeky “wouldn’t that be nice.” The levity in her jokes was delicious and left me smiling all night.

Olsen’s vulnerability and craftsmanship with songwriting is always at the forefront of the live show; this one included. I’ve never experienced a set from her where I left hearing every song I wanted to. I think that’s one of the best parts. She spans her catalog deeply and does what feels right to her. Another great (Minnesota -bred) songwriter famously does the same – Bob Dylan.  It usually leads to discovery of a song that didn’t get the attention that it deserved. For me, this time it was a solo version of “Some Things Cosmic” that really stuck out. It makes every tour extra special – especially when you hear favorites like “Shut Up Kiss Me” come up.

Being the tour opener, I was really excited to have been able to witness this performance. It was raw, and stunning, and there was something for everyone. If you’re a long-time fan or just getting started with Angel Olsen’s catalog, there is something special for you here. It felt intimate but sounded massive at the same time.