Village Underground – 4th May
In a cavernous space like Village Underground, it’s not uncommon for the nuances in an electronic record to get lost in the space. I’m no sound engineer, but for me the delicate balance between production and vocal levels is seldom perfect. For a band like Sylvan Esso, this balance is instrumental, literally. Their London show, celebrating their new album What Now, was a perfect balance of excellent lighting, excellent sound, pitch perfect vocals and exciting production.
North Carolina duo Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn are a scintillating duo. Silhouettes bathed in pink, blue and purple hues for much of their show, they might stand apart on stage but they’re totally in sync. Aside from a bizarre decision to enter to the opening bars of Ginuine’s ‘Pony’, theirs is a fun, vibrant and near flawless show from beginning to end.
The instrumentation of Sylvan Esso’s material allows absolutely no room for error when it comes to the vocal; off-key notes would be instantly noticeable to the crowd. For Amelia Meath, this matters not. Her vocal is exactly as it is on record, but with extra sass; her range exemplified in the latter stages of ‘Uncantena’. Every lyric is eloquently articulated and she adds a catchy staccato to her voice, leaping between octaves with a feisty ease. Somehow she simultaneously whips her pony tail around and dances across the stage with infectious enthusiasm. Since I last saw Sylvan Esso play at Field Day in 2015, their live show feels just as slick, but somehow less rehearsed. There’s noticeably more improvisation in Nick’s performance and he’s more relaxed, allowing himself to become completely absorbed in his creations.
“Let’s have a sweaty Thursday guys,” laughs Meath as they launch into ‘HSKT’ which receives one of the biggest cheers of the night. Other hands in the air highlights include ‘Just Dancing’ and ‘Radio’ from their new LP, and ‘Hey Mami’, ‘Uncantena’ and closing track ‘Play it Right’ from 2014’s self-titled debut. The crowd are putty in the hands of Sylvan Esso. Hanging onto every word of every song, apparently we’re the first audience to sing along to ‘Die Young’. There’s a momentary lapse in attention during What Now‘s breather ‘Slack Jaw’, but it’s fleeting.
As the show comes to a close, Amelia lets out a satisfied sigh and a soft giggle. “That was nice”, she says. “You’ve been endlessly kind. It’s an honour and a joy.” Likewise Sylvan Esso, likewise.