This past Halloween, fans of Angel Olsen filtered in to the Franklin Music Hall for what was promised to be a spooky night. Spider webs and ghosts were hung around the entrance, and the poster for the event featured a walking Jack O'Lantern in bold orange and purple. The night, however, hardly felt like the sort of Halloween bash that was advertised. Even disregarding this disappointment, it also failed to match the grandeur of Olsen's latest release, All Mirrors. The album brought new fans for its electronic elements and cinematic orchestral arrangements, but whatever passion that drove this sound could barely be found at her Halloween night set in Philadelphia.
Vagabon was a fitting opener for the night. Both her and Olsen have dramatically altered their sound from their previous albums, both opting for higher production value and more electronic sounds rather than their previous, more guitar–based songs. Last time she was in Philly, playing First Unitarian Church, Laetitia Tamko performed on guitar and with a drum pad to accompany. Now, she was joined by a full band, the drum pad still providing plenty of patches to fill in the gaps from record to live performance. Surprisingly, the bassist also contributed a good deal of the sound, heavily distorted to produce droning tones at times, and liquid smooth accompaniments at others. Tamko was at the forefront, however—her powerful voice projecting her deeply affecting music.
Olsen entered into a redesigned stage, now with the backdrop of a large, spiral staircase in black–and–white, two of the band member's sporting cat ears, another a Groucho Marx mustache scribbled on her upper lip. Olsen's set began with the title track of All Mirrors, the height of the excitement: glaze–y synths combined with a small string section to refract the sound of Olsen's voice.
From there, she moved through other tracks off her latest release, including "Lark" and "New Love Cassette." These sounded eerily similar to Sharon Van Etten's last album Remind Me Tomorrow, as both were produced by John Congleton and marked a dark and dystopian new sound for each artist. During Van Etten's tour in support of her album, she felt entirely encapsulated by her music, embodying it as though she had just incepted it. Olsen and her band felt distant, static on stage and disconnected from the audience.
After the band became settled in their rhythms, the veneer wore off. The night began to lag, each member of the band contributing, but none shining amongst the rest. Olsen is good as a bandleader, but nevertheless her energy was low that night and it showed. Her hit single from 2016's My Woman came in the middle of the set, feeling like half–hearted fan service, tucked at the lowest point of the night. The audience reacted far less enthusiastically than expected for such a seminal song.
Instead, what truly impressed was when her band left the stage. Olsen took a solo guitar to perform a couple of songs: "Unfucktheworld" and a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Tougher Than The Rest." On stage alone, it was a good reminder of her ability to transform her voice in front of everyone, each lyric a distinct timbre. She didn't get where she is for nothing; the formerly excitable audience was dead still when she began singing, captivated by her talent.
She returned for a brief encore afterwards, playing "Chance," the closer from All Mirrors, and "True Blue," her collaboration with producer Mark Ronson, a song filled with disco–inspired drums and a classic pop chorus with lines like, "Fucking around, I'm falling in love/ Saying goodbye cuz you're giving it up." The verve it brought felt like what had been missing the whole night, teased in the final moments before the lights went up and the people scattered.