Sylvan Esso @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion

Sylvan Esso
featuring Local Natives

July 28, 2018 at Blue Hills Bank Pavilion

Setlists can make or break a concert. I ventured all the way out to the Seaport to see Sylvan Esso (with Local Natives opening) and was suuuuper impressed with the show overall, though both groups’ set choices got me thinking about the process of curating a setlist.  

Photo by Jason Crouse for WRBB.

Local Natives are easily one of the most recognizable alternative bands from the last few years. Most people would know their song ‘Wide Eyes’ (which, quite honestly, was the only song I actually knew well enough to sing along to) and the crowd went wild when they played it. Their performance as a whole was lively and interesting, and I loved every minute of it, but I couldn’t help but to question their song order. Local Natives made the decision to play ‘Wide Eyes’ as the third track in their hour-and-fifteen-minute set, though I expected it to be way later in the lineup since it’s their most famous tune. I can see the logic behind their placement, however, since playing more popular tunes early in the set helps hook people sooner so they are interested for more of the set, while waiting until later on to play the popular ones means there is less of a chance of people tuning the rest of the show out once they hear that ~one song~. There’s a fine balance between hooking people early and keeping the anticipation building, and I honestly thought Local Natives could have made some different choices. Some transitions and sequences weren’t great, and they faked out the audience multiple times by making it seem as if their set was about to end – bringing out a loud and upbeat song with a big finish but then continuing on with slower tunes right after. I enjoyed their set regardless, and was thrilled for Sylvan Esso to perform and hopefully make better set choices.

Photo by Jason Crouse for WRBB.

Sylvan Esso truly lives up to the hype every time I see them. I am always mesmerized watching each track be composed and compiled in real-time while singer Amelia Meath serenades the audience with a calm and soothing siren’s song. Sylvan Esso’s tunes are upbeat and electro-poppy enough to keep people moving and dancing, but still unique and interesting enough to give them a sound all their own that lets you know that this, in fact, is definitely Sylvan Esso. They started in North Carolina which, as anyone I have spoken to for more than five minutes is aware, is where I am also from, and that fact earns them a special place in my heart. Their set was exciting and just plain fun. I had a blast, though I had a few thoughts on their setlist choices as well throughout the night. Most of the lineup was well-planned, with a nice mix of tempos and moods interspersed. They started the evening with ‘Sound,’ the opening track to their sophomore album that is the perfect beginning to a set. They played ‘Coffee,’ the lead single from their debut album, in the middle of the set but it was clear they were leaving ‘Radio,’ from the aforementioned sophomore album, until closer to the end (if not the very end). I expected ‘Radio’ to come absolutely last in the pseudo-encore so many bands do these days, and when they ended their main set with it I figured they may be avoiding the whole “we’re-leaving-the-stage-but-it’s-not-really-over-because-we-planned-an-encore” charade that everyone does.

I started leaving towards the end of ‘Radio’ anyway to avoid having to leave the Seaport on an already poorly-functioning Silver Line with a million other people, though watched from the back of the venue as they came back out to do an encore after all. They played two calm and slow songs to close out the evening, and though I would have expected them to end it on an upbeat note, they at least ended on a musically solid moment. I like that they took time to slow things down and settle for a bit, but that is something I thought would have fit in the middle of the set as a small break rather than to end the entire set. Or maybe that is just their genius and they wanted to go against what we would expect and desire on purpose. I trust Sylvan Esso, and think they did what they knew was best anyway and I love them ok the end yeehaw.

Photos by: Jason Crouse

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