Review: Sylvan Esso at Komedia, Brighton (02/06/15)


Brighton’s Komedia was packed to the rafters for Sylvan Esso’s headline show, providing a chance for them to warm up for their string of festival appearances over the summer. With such a bare stage only taken up by the two bandmates and a table of gadgets, it was clear that their live set was to rest heavily on their sound. There was no intricate light show or personalised backdrop but when it comes to putting on a show, the North Carolina duo do not disappoint.

The electro-pop beats sound vast and Nick Sanborn’s bass synths lend themselves well to a live setting. They are thick but still cut through the air, almost reminiscent of a dubstep wobble. Sylvan Esso somehow have a different energy in their live performance despite playing tracks that are mostly unchanged from the debut album, as their mellow sound becomes amplified by their explosive performance. Though only just passing the hour mark, their set feels as long as it needs to be, covering their album in full as well as providing an insight into the band’s future releases.

The first of the two new tracks were an obvious departure from their album, with an urgent thump of a kick drum that would seem more at home on a deep house mix. However, it doesn’t sound out of place alongside the songs from the record thanks to Amelia Meath’s vocal style. In their hour long set, her voice stands apart from her softer and more whimsical performances on the album; it’s bolder, more emphatic yet it still retains some of its signature daintiness. She also occasionally trails away from a note with a whoop or a snarl, keeping the crowd ever on their toes. What’s more impressive is that Sanborn samples Meath’s voice live and weaves it into the beat as an instrumental feature. It’s a stroke of genius and it fits the tone of Sylvan Esso’s music perfectly. They also loop the vocal intro to ‘Hey Mami’ live, recreating the memorable harmony on the spot.

Sylvan Esso’s stage presence is effortless and breathes life into their already vibrant set. Sanborn hunches intently over an array of dials and buttons, but his body bobs rhythmically as he lays down the electro-pop beats. Meath is wonderfully unpredictable on stage, twisting her wrists upwards like a flamenco dancer before moving into a series of sporadic, weaving motions. ‘HSKT’ (standing for heads, shoulders, knees, and toes) sees Meath’s dancing at its most entertaining, as she mimes out the actions of the childhood dance to the pulsing synth beat. When the time comes to sing the word ‘Esso’, she holds the microphone out to the audience and they eagerly oblige.

The two clearly have a lot of fun on stage and it is infectious. The crowd sang throughout the set and there was barely a smartphone in sight. Meath nonchalantly throws in the iconic “ladies, tell ‘em I woke up like this” from Beyoncé’s ‘Flawless’ in the final moments of ‘Dress’ and it works wonderfully. Later in their set, she gets the crowd awoo-ing before jumping into ‘Wolf.’ Just before they leave for the night, she thanks the crowd for getting the “club goin’ up on a Tuesday” (on an actual Tuesday, no less). These injections of humour are fleeting but help strengthen their relationship with the crowd.

Much like with their album, their set is consistently entertaining from start to finish and it’s hard to pick just one highlight from the evening.

More information on Sylvan Esso’s upcoming tour dates can be found here.


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Second year English student. Diluting the pressures of uni with film, TV, music and video games.

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