When lead singer of Sylvan Esso Amelia Meath last graced the Granada in 2015, she was deathly ill. But like any die-hard musician, she insisted that she could perform. She walked onto the stage like she had many times before…
…and promptly threw up, walking right back into the wings.
“That’s probably the most hardcore I’ve ever been,” Meath joked on stage last Tuesday. On Aug. 29, Sylvan Esso was back in Dallas and back at the Granada to promote their newest record “What Now.”
The venue was at maximum capacity, filled with twenty-somethings chatting and fidgeting with their drinks. The crowd was packed all the way to the front, where there was no space between the audience and the stage.
The opening solo act, Flock of Dimes, appeared at the middle of the stage, keyboard by her side and guitar in hand. Her first song composed of layer harmonies sounded much like a Sylvan Esso ballad and immediately captivated the crowd. By the end of her set, she left the crowd asking for her name and looking up her music.
The electro-pop duo opened with “Sound,” a slow progression of static feedback and soft vocals. Producer Nick Sanborn walked onto the stage, setting up behind a soundboard and a laptop. As Sanborn turned and twisted the knobs, his face scrunching at each beat, Amelia Meath appeared. She crooned the first lines, “I was gonna write a song for you, I was gonna sing it loud,” as the audience erupted into applause.
Sylvan Esso is on of the most unique acts out there, effortlessly combining electronic tracks drum beats with the human voice. Meath’s soft, folk vocals blend with Sanborn’s electronic production. For an electronic act, the duo stays away from the use of heavy synth. Instead they find ways to create a balanced sound that highlight’s Meath’s vocal talent. What results is a sound that makes fans want to both dance and settle down with a good book.
Even with their “chill” sound, both Meath and Sanborn have unexpectedly energetic stage presences that create an enthralling live experience. As soon as “Sound” transitioned into “Could I Be,” Meath commanded the crowd with her lively dance moves, contorting her arms and jumping across the stage. Even Sanborn put on his own show behind his soundboard, dancing to the beats and pumping up the crowd.
The lights behind Meath added to the experience. The stage was simply set up with large LED bars, forming an icon of the band: << << >> >>. Throughout the show, the LED lights glowed pink, green, blue, red and blinked to the beat. During powerhouses like “Hey Mamim” the band used fog machines to add a haze over Meath as she belted out.
Even with the light show, Meath’s unique way of dancing kicking to the beat added humanity to the act. No one hid behind a grandiose production. This sense of intimacy and honesty made Sylvan Esso a one-of-a-kind electronic performance. If they were trying to redeem themselves for the Dallas crowd and for Granada, they succeeded.