April 18th, 2018 | Live reviews

Photos by Stephanie Port Words by Madison Desler

“So you guys know the band’s not coming out, right?,” reigning indie darling Angel Olsen asked last night at The El Rey Theatre, where she performed an intimate solo show without her usual, besuited sidemen. It was a needless concern—one that evaporated the moment the curtains opened and Olsen launched into a hypnotic cover of the Everly Brothers’ “Since You Broke My Heart”—her arresting voice, beloved catalog, and casually dauntless stage presence more than enough for the sold-out crowd.

It was a short set, a dozen songs presented with the ease and nonchalant air of someone sitting around a campfire, but thanks to Olsen’s astounding talent, every second was lined with awe. She avoided last year’s universally acclaimed album My Woman completely, opting to reacquaint us with some lesser-known cuts from 2011’s Strange Cacti EP and 2014’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness. Alone on stage with nothing but a black guitar, “Iota” sparkled with a new shine, and you could feel the room fall in love with the blossoming charm of “If It’s Alive, It Will” all over again.

Olsen was in a noticeably good mood, asking a man out on a date that shouted “You’re the best, fuck the rest!” at her, asking the audience for post-show taco spot suggestions, and telling us about the Stranger Things-themed cat dream she had the night before. It spilled over into her songs as she often giggled in the middle of verses or cracked a cheeky smile—even the “sad part of the set” that she kept insisting would only be a few songs long. “Fucking Cry: On Tour Now,” she joked in between the bittersweetness of “Some Things Cosmic” and the haunting darkness of “White Fire”—her guitar a low rumble, her voice an ominous moan through lines like “Everything is tragic/It all just falls apart.”

“Sans,” a cut off her recent B-sides album Phases was a highlight, transformed from its breathy and intimate recorded state to a piercing, goosebumps-invoking incarnation. The always stunning “Unfucktheworld” seemed to have us holding our breath, afraid the slightest noise or movement would disturb the marvel taking place on stage. Olsen also interspersed five new songs in the set, some of them unfinished, each one better than the last. “Getting back on track/’Til the time comes to make a whole new mess again” she sang during the final song of the set, her striking voice becoming playfully mischievous in its promise.

The show was opened by Adrianne Lenker, songwriter and frontwoman of Big Thief. With her aching lyrics and impressive guitar work, she wove her own spell over the captivated crowd. Switching between acoustic and electric guitars, she created a warm environment, the intimacy of her lyrics complimented by her beat up jeans and calm demeanor. Her brother Noah joined her on stage for a song-his first time doing so. “She is both dreamer and dream,” she sang during a new song toward the end of the set, her clear, emotive voice a kind of cousin to Olsen’s, the affective power of her stripped-back performance—all her own.