Concert Review: Echosmith at Delmar Hall
Reaching the top 40 of the Billboard 100 chart is not an easy task; reaching it with two of your first three singles is rarer still. But that's exactly what Echosmith did with 2013's "Cool Kids" (which peaked at number 13) and 2015's "Bright" (number 40).
Both songs came from the band's 2013 debut album, "Talking Dreams," which went gold in the U.S. And in 2020, the band released its long-awaited follow-up LP, "Lonely Generation."
The record was released less than two months before COVID-19 lockdowns in the U.S., which no doubt impacted how the Chino, Calif. band was able to promote the independently released album, playing roughly a month of a tour before the world shut down.
During the band's Oct. 31 St. Louis, Mo. show at Delmar Hall, the relief to be back on the road was obvious on the faces of the band members (and siblings), which include frontwoman Sydney Sierota, guitarist/bassist Noah Sierota and drummer Graham Sierota. And their joy was as contagious as any concert I've ever seen. They were grateful, and it was genuine. The audience felt that.
Fittingly for Halloween night, the trio came out on stage wearing inflatable costumes for the first two songs, "Gelato" and "Over My Head." Sydney was dressed as "inflatable car wash guy" (and despite the costume being deflated, she made it work). Noah, while on electric guitar, was dressed as a chicken, and the most impressive costume was worn by Graham – Porky Pig – as he improbably played the drums while inhibited by such a massive suit.
"Gelato," the band's recent single, is as infectious as anything they've released since their first album, and it was an excellent choice as an opener.
Since 2016, the band has been a trio, and that is reflected on stage. The group had no additional musicians accompanying them live. So the usage of backing tracks, as a result, is unavoidable and understandable.
Mostly, the tracks were synths, so it's hard to complain about that. And to be clear, the singing and musicianship were unmistakably excellent, so the additional accompaniment was not a crutch but a practical necessity, being a three-piece.
One of the biggest positives about the show was the variety. There was an acoustic section where the three Sierotas came to the front of the stage, with Graham playing a electric drum pad, Syndey on acoustic and Noah on bass guitar. During this part of the concert, the band brought out custom fortune cookies with song names written inside. Whichever song was found inside, they would play that song. The surprise tune was "Cool Kids (Cookie Version)," a play on people misunderstanding the song's lyrics.
"I wish that I could be like the cookies," Sydney sang, while putting the words "snickerdoodle" and "OREO" into the verse. (She assured us they'd play the real song later.)
During "Talking Dreams," Echosmith was a straight-up rock band. Sydney, equipped with an electric guitar, played both lead and rhythm parts. The song, with its pulsating beat and the band's energy (Noah and Sydney shared a mic Springsteen-style at one point), made it a highlight.
Mixing styles is something more conducive to a live show as compared to an album, which is expected to have more of a consistent feel. But it's this variety that might be one of Echosmith's biggest strengths, which they took advantage of during this show.
The third version (if I may) of the band is this: Sydney, holding a microphone, energetically covering the stage (in a controlled, professional way but not a contrived overly choregraphed way) like the pop star she is. Fitting for the pop aesthetic, she twirled an umbrella during "Diamonds."
Similarly, on "Cool Kids," the only live instruments were vocals, bass, drums and Sydney playing the iconic synth riff. This was a common set-up for the night (and it's the result of their brother, guitarist Jamie Sierota leaving the band six years ago to focus on his family). Again, this mostly wasn't a problem, but for their most famous song, I would have loved to see them bring out a member or two from one of the supporting bands to fill out the arrangement.
Perhaps that's a minor complaint, as the song was an excellent crowd-pleaser and great closer. Echosmith performed the new lyrics, which can be heard in "Cool Kids (our version)," an update to a song that was originally written 10 years ago.
Reflecting back was an endearing theme of the night. The band's other top-40 hit, "Bright," has become a song that has been used for proposals, weddings and other notable moments in the lives of countless people, and Sydney talked about that on stage.
"It's so cool to think we can be part of the soundtrack of your guys' lives," she said.
She also told the crowd, which was not as big as I expected because of the holiday, that she was 15-years-old when she wrote the love song. Despite never having been in a relationship at the time, she wrote it about what she thought love was. Now married, she said she's grown up with the song.
Sydney told concert-goers that she wanted this tour to be a time to be present, intentional, and to connect with others. And that wasn't simply talk. She took time to visit with members of the audience from the stage, asking about their Halloween costumes, and she told stories. It was entirely genuine.
One of the most touching moments of the night was when Sydney emotionally and compassionately reflected on the challenges of the pandemic, citing how important people are to get us through difficult times. She asked everyone to think of one person who has made a difference in each of our lives. Sydney then asked one audience member who she was thinking of; then she brought that audience member on stage to make a video for the person the fan had in mind. The audience then exclaimed a loving message in the fan's video, giving a shoutout to her mom.
During an era of our world that's seen its share of darkness, it was nice to see this concert, which was something unmistakably, well, bright.