LIVE: Sylvan Esso @ Upstate Concert Hall, 7/30/18

Review by Steven Stock

Sylvan Esso attracted a sell-out crowd to Clifton Park’s Upstate Concert Hall, including quite a few people who’ve been tracking singer Amelia Randall Meath since she founded the much-loved Bennington trio Mountain Man back in 2009.

The packed house proved to be something of a double-edged sword. This concert felt like an event, the sweaty crowd’s rapturous reception generating an almost palpable energy that Sylvan Esso both stoked and fed from. Yet the electronica duo was playing dance music, so it was perhaps unfortunate that the only people who had room to dance were the hyper-kinetic Meath and her partner (in both life and music) keyboardist/programmer Nick Sanborn.

Meath does incredible and unexpected things vocally, eschewing conventional prettiness in a manner sometimes reminiscent of Bjork. One of the central paradoxes of Sylvan Esso is the way the duo deploys maximalist vocals over minimalist music, most effectively on “Kick Jump Twist.” There’s also something winsome and charming when Sanborn uses thousands of dollars of advanced equipment to conjure a sound not far removed from a Fisher-Price toy.

“Coffee” was another somewhat unlikely highlight. Superficially it seems like kind of a dumb song at first, mere bubblegum pop, but when the crowd gets involved by singing the tagline “my baby does the hanky-panky,” it somehow becomes virtually an anthem.

“Every now and then I wake up and realize that somehow we’ve parlayed our way through our lives to get to throw massive parties every night,” marveled Meath. “It’s such a joy,” she proclaimed, before enlisting the eager audience’s help again for a rambunctious version of “Wolf.” “Radio,” featuring one of the duo’s most irresistible hooks, ensured that the sweaty crowd would demand an encore. The entire performance lasted a scant eighty minutes, but everyone left sated.

Dreamy Bruises
Die Young
Kick Jump Twist
Jaime’s Song
The Glow
Just Dancing
Hey Mami
Play It Right

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