Sylvan Esso’s Denver Concert Blended Electronic Wizardry With Freddie Mercury Strut

Sylvan Esso’s Colorado fans revere the North Carolina indie duo’s new EP Echo Mountain Sessions, even if it’s a surprising rock-and-roll departure from the act’s synth-pop sound.

But as the band captivated a bouncing, jam-packed crowd at the 1,600-capacity Ogden Theatre on Thursday, August 10, during a revelatory version of “Die Young,” it was clear that people appreciated Sylvan Esso for what earned it a career in the first place: Amelia Meath’s energetic, dreamy vocals and Nick Sandborn’s electronic wizardry. By the second song, “Could I Be,” we all knew Sylvan Esso had no need for a live band.

Meath’s contagious voice – simultaneously raw, sweet, feminine, passionate, rebellious – comes alive on stage, as both musicians get aerobic, moving their bodies so much that the audience has to dance, too, captivated by Sanborn’s pulsing live electronic production, which has the creative force of a modern orchestra.

Meath – who praised City, O’ City food and spent her off day in Denver getting so high she just curled up in a blanket, “saying I was at the center of the earth” – has so much infectious energy on stage she’s almost a band of her own.

She’s seemed like a natural bandleader since I first saw her with the mesmerizing, mostly a cappella outfit Mountain Man in 2011 at the Boulder Theater. But with Sylvan Esso at the Ogden, she was in full bloom.

Meath’s performance evokes indie-pop Freddie Mercury: She nails challenging vocal parts while not only dancing, traversing the stage and working the crowd, but also delivering charismatic facial expressions you’d never guess were happening just from listening to a live recording.

The combination of vocal prowess and boogie-down physicality brought to mind the many pop stars who’ve made bogus claims that they have to lip-synch because dancing hard while delivering boss-level vocals is impossible. Sylvan Esso proved that untrue.

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