It takes something special to get people to go out after a hard day’s work on your average Tuesday evening. Toss that in with it being the first day back after a long holiday weekend and the weird mix of warm weather playing tag with tiny frozen pellets raining down, and most people will call it a night, stay home, and watch Netflix. A Sylvan Esso show, however, is worth every second of that cold walk from the metro.
Making my way into what feels like my second home, Corona Theatre, my attention was immediately drawn to the massive pillars set up on the stage behind a DJ set. First thing I thought of was the monument at Parc Jean-Drapeau and Piknic Électronik. Foreshadowing? More on that later.
Opening the show was Suzi Analogue’s DJ set consisting of electronic beats with experimental mixes of soul and R&B. Known for her strong vocals expertly infused into the rhythm of the song, she kicked things off with well-known songs like “Bodak Yellow” by Cardi B and got the crowd clapping their hands.
It’s always refreshing to see DJs who really get into the groove of the music and will actually move to the beat and dance with the crowd. I don’t care how amazing the music is if you’re doing a live performance I want some crowd participation because it’s all about the presentation. Unfortunately, that’s where things were somewhat of a letdown for me. I felt like the music just sort of continued on, and while it was a solid set, it didn’t build up to something more and ended with a missing climax. Perhaps with a longer set more could have been done.
The audience also wasn’t as receptive to her style of music as they could have been. I think if Suzi was performing at a different venue like Newspeak or Le Belmont she’d get a much warmer welcome and I’d like to see her return to Montreal for our outdoor festivals like Piknic Électronik. I think she’d be killer at one of those shows and that evening’s problem was simply that her style of music is too much of a stark difference to Sylvan Esso. The music didn’t complement each other well.
Finally, the moment we’ve been waiting for, Nick Sanborn took the stage and instantly set the mood that would last the entirety of the night. With the familiar crackling sound of a vinyl record (does this mean I’m old?), Nick brought the entire venue to a hush with “Sound” off the 2017 album What Now. Those just discovering Sylvan Esso might have thought there was something wrong with the sound equipment for the first 10 seconds, but fans in attendance were itching with anticipation, for they knew Amelia Meath was to take the stage any second now.
After a ghostly ethereal premiere performance, Amelia quickly changed gears and took things back singing “Could I Be” from their self-titled Sylvan Esso album from 2014. Alternating from new to old and back again, this dynamic duo ensured a perfect balance sure to please longtime fans and newcomers alike with a smart combination of recent hit singles like “PARAD(w/m)E” (2018) and older classics like the single “Hey Mami” (2013). Actually, in addition to a good number of songs from their two albums I’m pretty sure they played every last one of their singles ever released.
Getting back to my tangent about crowd participation, Sylvan Esso is right up there earning top marks. Amelia engaged the crowd multiple times throughout the night with mini stories ranging from standing up against sexual harassment to how absolutely amazing our Montreal bagels are. Nick was constantly rocking out beside the DJ set in sync with the mesmerizing lightshow from the pillars behind him and the crowd followed suit. It’s not often I see people dancing in the balconies and chanting, usually they just kinda sit there bobbing their heads or rocking their shoulders without doing much else so that was refreshing and exemplary. I couldn’t help but laugh at one of the security guys when I noticed he had to tell the same dancing couple on four separate occasions not to block pathways, that’s how good a show it was. At one point, Amelia even got hundreds of people in the venue to howl before singing… wait for it… “Wolf,” off the 2014 self-titled album.
After the usual “last song” Sylvan Esso closed out the night with encore song “Play It Right.” If you weren’t there there’s still hope for you yet! Sylvan Esso will be back in Montreal very soon (must be the bagels) Friday, August 3rd for Osheaga 2018.
Written and Photographed by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Danielle Kenedy