Sylvan Esso at House of Blues on 11/14

There was something in the air the Sunday night that Sylvan Esso stepped onto the House of Blues stage for the second of two shows that weekend. As lead singer Amelia Meath let loose her first resounding note, I realized what it was — electricity. For an electro-pop duo with track titles like “Radio” and “Frequency,” this made sense. Static stuck to the air and to the sequins of Meath’s glittery bodysuit as producer Nick Sanborn’s synths simmered in the background.

This energy had been building all night, starting with a colorful opening set by Lido Pimenta, a Columbian-Canadian artist who has toured with Sylvan Esso previously. By the time 9:15 rolled around, the packed crowd was ready. As the unlit stage gave way to a glimmering wall of twinkling lights, Sanborn took his place behind the keyboard and mixing stand while Meath assumed the role of disco ballerina— fluttering her sleeves and waving her arms in the air, she glided across the stage, pausing at times to contort her body into a graceful pirouette.  

In the same state of flow, each song melted into the next. Sometimes, the only sign of a new track beginning was a new fluorescent color story—smoky reds exchanged for an amber glow, or cool greys fading into electric greens. This lack of clear demarcation between songs meant Sylvan Esso didn’t stop to speak to the audience that often, but both audience and performers were too busy dancing to notice. Still, if not verbally, Meath engaged physically with the audience throughout the show. In tracks like “PARAD(w/m)E,” the crowd became a necessary instrument – their clapping formed the rhythmic backbone that Meath’s voice ducked over and under just as deftly as she does on the recorded version.

With three albums under their belt, Sylvan Esso had a plethora of material to choose from, resulting in a setlist that managed to balance old favorites and new hits. “Ferris Wheel” and “Numb,” from their 2020 release Free Love, appeared in between “H.S.K.T” and “Coffee” from their first self-titled album. “Coffee” was the only time during the show where Sanborn chimed in with vocals, their delicate duet building up to a crescendo of blinding white light which washed over the crowd. 

The dynamic between Meath and Sanborn, who are not only in a band together but have been married since 2016, is one of playful exuberance. Watching them bounce off each other, perfectly in step, is what kept the energy high throughout the night, with the only pause being an intimate performance of “Slackjaw”. During this slower and more stripped-down track off of What Now,  Meath’s feet finally came to a halt and she serenaded the audience in a pillar of light. 

With their tour appropriately titled “Shaking out the Numb,” Sylvan Esso celebrated the pure joy of live music and the ability to absolutely lose yourself in song and dance after a long pandemic. When at last the electric hum subsided and Sylvan Esso disappeared back into their dreamworld, all that’s left to hope for is that the next time they come to Boston, they stay for three nights instead of two. 

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