ANGEL OLSEN: LIVE @ Gorilla, Manchester – 2/5 * *
“You have the right to remain silent” crows Angel Olsen with her broken Southern lilt as she recites the opening line of “Miranda”.
Whilst this may have only been two-thirds of the way through what would become a unnaturally stunted set, the audience may have done well to have taken this wish as her command.
Taking to the stage at 9.45 sharp, Olsen files onto the stage and into the tipsy Spanish tinged lullaby of opener “Drunk and with Dreams” before the floaty hopelessness of “Free”.
So far, it was business as usual then. Whilst the croak and rust of her country tinged alt-folk made for a pleasing intro, it’s when the band kicks into newies lifted from the truly excellent new album “Burn Your Fire For No Witness” that we’re treated. The melting interstellar guitar solos of “Stars”, the Nashville-with-venom hiss of “Hi-Five” and the motorik thrust of “Forgiven/Forgotten” offer up musical thrills.
Yet, it soon became increasingly difficult to decipher whether the atmosphere in the room was heating up as a result of the sweaty masses packed into the sold-out show or much more likely from the relentless friction mounting from Olsen’s coarse onstage attitude. Crowd banter is not something everyone is gifted with.
Not every front-woman can pretend to be a Karen O, a Debbie Harry or a Kate Bush. But even the most devout fan would have found the unceremoniously abrupt song terminations and her subsequent routine sharp swivel of heel to ensure her back remained firmly to the audience while she muttered to her band mates and twiddled her tune pegs (for what seemed like eons) after every song was anything but just plain rude.
The repetition of this staccato routine was clearly getting too much for some. The result, was an on-stage incident comparable only with that scene in Stephen King’s Carrie, with the gig tak a turn for the unbelievable.
‘Can you play ‘Unfucktheworld” love, I’ve got a bus to catch’ hollers a fan in a thick-as-gravy Mancunian accent with a underlying hint of fun in an attempt to blow-off some of the steam during yet another awkward song gap.
To Olsen, this it would seem, is crowd interaction equivalent of being drenched in a bucket of pigs’ blood on your prom night. And the response? Hell hath no fury…
‘Why don’t you just fucking get the bus then?” Olsen howls, sizing the punter up. [Crowd laughs.]
‘Well guess what, I have to go to Newcastle tomorrow for a gig in a fucking bus. And it’s not even a bus, it’s a fucking car!’ [Crowd looks uneasily at one another.]
‘Then guess what? I have to get in the fucking car again and go to fucking gig at the next place.’ she shrieks, more shrilly still.
At this point, the crowd looks genuinely frightened.
‘Well here’s ‘Unfucktheworld’ anyway’
Qu’elle suprise, this is not what she plays.
Unlike Carrie, the venue didn’t then burst into flames, but sure as hell the next song did. Launching into the most incendiary piece of the night, Olsen delivers a boot-quakingly fearsome rendition of “Sweet Dreams” that clatters and squalls as she lashes at her guitar. Adjusting her stance to fixate a piercing gaze on the public transport pest she revises the lyrics in bile and curses:
‘Yes the time will come for everyone, for everyone to go and get the bus… and say goodbye.’
Needless to say, he got the hint and split. Needless to say, not another vocal peep will be heard from the rest of the audience all night.
As the storm passes and her temper cools, Olsen offers up a quite lovely rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” as opposed to the lucid nightmare she had just unleashed. But it’s clear to see by the time she plays set-closer “May as Well”, she’s had enough. Leaving the audience wait another 5 minutes, suspended in the dimmed lights of what was clearly intended to be an encore, it soon became apparent that the eager claps of those who didn’t have to get a bus home (or at least were less vocal about it), to be left with mud in their eye. Or with politely missed buses.
Some real live highlights this evening, but ultimately this gig will end up being memorable for only the wrong reasons. Banter at gigs happens, even something as mild as Bus-gate. We all commute too. Deal with it. But please, not like that and ultimately at the expense of every other person who paid for a ticket. After tonight’s performance, it’s clear she’s no Angel.
Review Score: 2/5 * *
Words: Thom Williams