Angel Olsen at The Fillmore, by Patric Carver
Angel Olsen (photo: Patric Carver)

Like any contemporary magnum opus, Angel Olsen’s My Woman feels both inextricably defined by its immediate context and yet wholly timeless. The singer-songwriter’s third studio LP alludes to a number of bygone eras — most prominently that of 1960s country pop and the following decade's folk-rock giants such as Fleetwood Mac — yet still maintains a sonic architecture that is rooted in modern designs. And as all artists who have just released a magnum opus tend to do, she drew predominantly from the album for her set at The Fillmore this past Wednesday evening, one of two consecutive sold-out nights at the venue. In fact, she performed every song off My Woman save for the bare coda of a closing track “Pops.” But if you were expecting a set steeped in the dour isolation of her debut, you still wouldn’t have been disappointed, because Olsen’s immaculate effervescence could turn the most stubbornly introspective loner into a shameless romantic for the night.

Angel Olsen transfixed the crowd with an unassumingly essential 90 minutes of golden guitar pop. Her band doesn't jam so much as they saunter, loitering around a chord progression for as long as it takes to wring out every last ounce of sunlight. It all comes across impossibly lightweight, ephemeral not in an unmemorable way, but rather in that every moment pushes proudly through the next. There are so many little things the six-piece does that are at a flawless level of musicianship, specifically in how they flesh out these songs without packing them to the brim. Having three guitars didn't mean that there was a wall of sound emitting from the stage, each one fighting for attention over the others, but rather that you could feel the all-encompassing sparkle from multiple levels. There’s no sound I’ve heard yet in person as pleasing as when two of the guitarists harmonized their solos, oftentimes doing so over just a dependable bass drum punctuating the hushed, fading chord strums.

These stylized touches highlighted in bold color songs fans of Olsen have come to know in perfect detail. So far as Angel Olsen has a banger, it’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ frizzy "Forgiven/Forgotten.” But I still wasn’t prepared for how the band polished the song’s bouncy fuzz to reveal an aromatic center in a tune that momentarily turned the crowd into a vigorous sock hop. “Sister” was overflowing with ambition — the song’s stunning outro stretched up and down with riveting force, at times sounding like The War On Drugs with its hazy vamp and solos, but in its most tender moments recalling Elliot Smith. She meanwhile slowed things down to a delightful simmer on “Those Were The Days,” which kept threatening to break out into a jazzy sprint but never revved up more than a subtle skip.

Yet for all the impeccable musicianship, the star of the show was undeniably that glorious voice. Olsen has a remarkable command over her timbre and range, and can turn to taffy melodies that would land like cement from other singers. The way she soars with smooth bravado over the chorus of “It’s Not Gonna Kill You” was magnificent, all the more for her mighty wail that followed. Her voice can slip in and out of a pinched flutter, seemingly cresting and waning along the hue of the lights that enshrined her on stage. There’s a sparkling grit to her tone that’s reminiscent of Dolly Parton, yet her preternatural poise is more akin to that of St. Vincent. There was only one other backup vocalist on stage, who added a reedy finish to Olsen's already fully-formed vocals, laying down the centerline when her voice often quavered under the weight of her intentions.

For an artist known for her unwavering grief, Olsen’s concert was all about good spirits — she cracked genuinely disarming smiles in the midst of songs about relentless loneliness; bathed us in warm, gentle guitar tones for songs that on record let you down swiftly and with intensity. Perhaps her more rollicking evolution on My Woman is partly the reason for this renewed live spirit, yet I also imagine it’s in part due to her total command over the execution of her image. She’s finished playing the sad-sack with her acoustic guitar running down her voice like tears on her breath. Instead she’s the singular rock star singing doe-eyed songs with a cunning undercurrent, projecting confidence in blinding infatuation. She’s assuredly her own woman, but we should be thankful she shares herself so generously with the rest of us.

Disclosure: Photos are from Thursday's show.

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