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Angel Olsen Brings her Effortless Incantations to Edinburgh 

On Saturday 22nd October, Angel Olsen and the Big Time Band came to Edinburgh for the penultimate concert on her UK/Ireland tour. After an acoustic opening set by Tomberlin, each member of the Big Time Band walks onstage adorning a different block colour ensemble and instrument; a pink violinist, a red drummer, and a green keyboardist. Then, after a pause, Olsen takes to the stage to cheers before immediately breaking into her delicately powerful incantations. Her voice floats through Usher Hall effortlessly despite the power of her shrill and sharp vocals. 

The Big Time Band’s smart yet colourful ensembles and orchestral elements feel formal yet relaxed. It provides the atmosphere with a warm old-timey feel as well as being reminiscent of Angel Olsen’s Missouri roots. Previously, Olsen has stated the influence of the era of the ‘30s-‘50s in which her parents grew up on her music and interests. Considering this lifelong engrossment is especially illuminating in her performing her new songs from her latest album, Big Time. This ten-song collection was released in June of this year. It deals with the deaths of her parents, which happened within 2 months of each other, and perhaps informs the most intense manifestation of their influence on Olsen with this album. Equally important to this album, is the theme of love. The record not only addresses the thrills of a new relationship but also a newly realised sexuality with Olsen only having come out publicly in 2021. The new songs she plays from this album are beautifully performed and speak to how love lives amongst grief as she triumphantly sings, “I’m loving you big time, I’m loving you more”, the lines from the album’s title . The power of the lyrics live heightens the grandeur of feelings Olsen never shies away from. Another highlight was the delivery of the chorus of ‘Right Now’ which wholly supersedes its recorded self, transforming into a deliciously sway filled drum driven melody live. 

Despite dealing with the enormity of feelings, Olsen has a laidback stage presence. As she reaches the climax of ‘All the Good Times’, she seems happy to stand back and watch her keyboardist sing the most triumphant part of the song which is the standout highlight of the Big Time album itself. Following this, she brings out her guitar tech, Max, for an animated rendition of happy birthday and often finds herself more interested in the chitter chatter of her bandmates behind her than the spectacle of what’s in front of her. In this casualness, there is an amusing irony to the way Olsen so coolly sings about such emotional extremities. The focus on the music rather than stage theatricals  spreads her calmness to the mixed crowd that she  has attracted . It ranges from a barefoot man in a poncho to tipsy hecklers screaming desperately for their favourite songs to be played. Olsen remains cool and calm, facetiously explaining that she cannot understand them and nonchalantly asking them to talk one at a time. This cool air juxtaposes nicely with her piercing lyrics and deep feeling melodies; there is an effortlessness to her emotional power, and she wants you to know it. 

Image “Angel Olsen” by alter1fo is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.