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Angel Olsen @ Manchester’s Albert Hall review and gallery – Big Time is where Olsen’s country yodel sounds most at home

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Featured image: Josie Hunt

Indie folk songwriter Angel Olsen performs a sentimental set full of mischief and intimacy at Manchester’s iconic Albert Hall on her Big Time tour.

Angel Olsen will probably never perform a ‘greatest hits’ type set, and she is all the better for it. Every tour shines the spotlight on her new material, respecting herself for the generationally talented songwriter she is. So prolific is her output, it is easy to see why she gets bored of playing the same old crowd pleasers. 

Big Time finds the multi genre spanning songwriter in the most ‘country and western’ corner she’s ever been, prioritising sentimental lyricism over the indie rock cathartic tunes found on her most popularly revered album My Woman. This genre is arguably where Angel’s voice sounds most at home. Her signature yodel that sets her apart from other indie vocalists is deep rooted in the country tradition. Guitar string bending and drum brushes abound, for many, country music can be quite an inaccessible genre. But Olsen’s ability to cherry pick between the interrelated traditions of folk, blues and country delivers a beautifully detailed and imaginative night of storytelling.  

Angel more than once showed her mischievous side, luring the audience into thinking they were being treated to a newly written song only to bulldoze through her hit single ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’. We quickly found the funny side of the cruel trick, as being treated to the hit single was a rarity we treasured dearly for those few minutes, sandwiched between a quieter collection of new songs. 

Angel signed off with her signature sing-a-long encore of ‘Without You’, popularised by Harry Nilson, a song that everybody seems to know the words to. A nod to fellow song writing greats Pete Ham and Tom Evans of Badfinger, the cover felt like a tribute to songwriters everywhere, continuing the traditions of over a century of storytelling. 

For some, Big Time may seem like a backwards step in Angel Olsen’s career as the album divides fans. But even to her critics, her new songs are a sign that the prolific songwriter has no intention of slowing up. The Big Time tour solidifies Angel Olsen’s status as one of the world’s greatest living songwriters.

Gallery by Josie Hunt

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Eddie Toomer-McAlpine

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