Merrill Garbus (of tune-yards) performed at Webster Hall on 6/22. Credit: Chris Leo Palermino
When a rock show feels more like an fervent dance party, the artist onstage is surely doing something right. Merrill Garbus, better known as tune-yards, directed Webster Hall's capacity crowd on Sunday (and again on Monday), performing her brand of experimental pop to captivated devotees. Backing Nikki Nack, her third LP released last month, catchy melodies and intricate wordplay often gave way to extended percussive solos amidst a quirky, children's book-esque backdrop.
Clothed in bright colors and fairy wings, Garbus sang, danced and drummed her way through a 12 song, high energy set heavily based in new material. Early on, she set the tone of the set: "Gangster," her aggressive anthem from 2011's whokill, was her second song. Wafts of illicit smoke came just as early.
For the 35-year-old singer/songwriter, the show was a homecoming of sorts. Noting that lots of friends and family were in the audience, she emphasized gratitude with regards to her success. "It's crazy to live the rock and roll dream like this," Garbus said. "Thank you so much."
The time she spent learning to drum and dance in Haiti was loud and clear on Sunday, most evident in an extended, improvisational version of "Powa." Other highlights included the powerful "Time of Dark" and the syncopated pop gems of "Water Fountain" and "Bizness."
The spirited electrofolk wanderings of Sylvan Esso opened, a youngish duo quickly coming into their own. Also on the heels of a new album, their self-titled debut, singer Amelia Meath and instrumentalist Nick Sanborn began the party early with a well-received set. It's clear that six weeks of club dates alongside tune-yards has developed the group since we last saw them last month at NYC's The Westway.
The whimsical children's theme of 2014's Nikki Nack also comes through in tune-yard's music videos for her latest effort. Watch "Water Fountain" below.
This column is part of a Metro Boston and Metro New York music feature called Locally Amped. Follow us on Twitter @Locally Amped and on Facebook at Locally Amped.