Sylvan Esso at The Earl – 8/15

Last Friday, Amelia Meath, wearing stellar platform sneakers and a tongue-out grin, was as fluid and ambivalent as the lyrics she sang. Nick Sanborn moved with playful precision.

Following a set from Dana Buoy, a recent project of Dana Janssen of Akron/Family and tour support for their current US run, Sylvan Esso opened their set at The Earl with “Hey Mami,” the first track on their debut self-titled album. The song is fierce, but their poppy and rippling performance gave it a new dimension. As Meath kicked and thrusted herself into the song, Sanborn kept it afloat with swoon-worthy percussion. The two were magically synced. Sanborn took Meath’s voice and turned it into a formidable instrument of tidal dance grooves and solid electronics. Meath took it to the crowd, promised everyone would “get real sweaty” and followed through with every song.

They were engaging and organic — both comfortable and determined on stage. Even their banter carried into their music. After a gorgeous rendition of “Wolf,” Sanborn sampled a playful howl from Meath. He mixed it, she sang over it, and they joked about playing off each other like that for the rest of the show. They didn’t, but they absolutely could have.

After playing nine songs, they had created a wacky, beautiful space. They moved from dance tracks to pop songs to heady rhythms with ease, clearly cozy with their experience on stage.

The room demanded an encore. Despite the band having played every song on their album but one, they came out smiling, almost apologetically. They asked the crowd’s permission to play just two more songs. They shrugged humbly, as if they hadn’t just hypnotized an entire room, and played a haunting cover of “Cosmos,” from Porches. The duo closed with their record’s final, soothing track, “Come Down,” and left the crowd feeling peaceful but restless for more.

As Meath off-handedly admitted, “Sometimes you feel sexy, and sometimes you feel like you’re in second grade.”

At this show, you felt both all at once, and it was wonderful. – Michelle Meredith

“It wasn’t just fun. It was like, fun fun, y’know?” – Will Hawthorne