SYML, Phases Tour, NYC

SYML with a supporting band of four, all entered the stage robed in flowing white garments. The quintet opened the night with a sobering rendition of “You and I.” Just above a mutter, SYML made it known, ‘I wanna feel something, I wanna feel something.’ Later expanding, ‘I want some good loving… want it to mean something.’ The earnestly mellow duet featured additional vocals from Charlotte Lawrence and is off SYML’s latest release and third full-length album, The Day My Father Died. The Phases tour, in support of the new record, was hosted in New York City by Racket, in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan on a cool, late-Spring night.

The opener was swiftly followed by the album’s second single, “Believer.” SYML purred, ‘Hold me like no other/Embrace my brokenness,’ before warning, ‘Don’t preach to me, a believer in a choir/ You’re that hallelujah sweetness on my lips.’ The track is a stand-alone masterpiece, but the live version made it even more so. The eager crowd was then transported “in a soft electric light” with the relentless, pulsing beat of “Chariot,” the penultimate single from the new record. ‘Wait up for me, chariot, chariot come carry me…’, SYML pleaded into the audience.

The band then slowed the pace with “Lost Myself.” The stage was flooded by incandescent lights each time the band delivered in unison, ‘Breaking through the clouds/ Feels impossible now,’ it was as if a midday sun had penetrated the dark room. Up until then, the sparsely crowded, 650 standing-room capacity venue had remained mostly dim.

SYML is the solo venture of 40-year-old Brian Fennell of former indie band, Barcelona. Pronounced “sim-mel,” the moniker translates to “simple” in Welsh. Fennell has noted that the name acts as a reminder for him to “live life simply.” It is also a tribute to Fennell’s heritage. He was born to Welsh parents but raised by adoptive parents outside of Seattle, Washington. SYML released his eponymous debut album in May of 2019, via Nettwerk Records. The debut was followed by 2021’s Sacred Spaces, a live album recorded at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle.

Performing a cover of John Hiatt’s “Have a Little Faith in Me,” was a pleasant departure from the artist’s own body of work, while “Fear of the Water” brought the rapt audience back to SYML’s familiar supply. From there, the band transitioned seamlessly into “I Wanted to Leave” from the Sacred Spaces record. The song was featured as a sample by Lana Del Rey on the “Paris, Texas” track from her 2023 album, Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd.

“Howling,” a favorite from the new record, was a thrilling performance. ‘Keep me howling baby/ I’ll be your beast, I’ll be your dog… Lay me down low, I’m coming down slow,’ with every offering of “low” and “slow” doubling as howls. On the drum-heavy reworking of “Meant to Stay Hid,” the artist admits, ‘if I wasn’t so afraid, I’d shine a light up to space.’

You would be forgiven for losing track of time while getting lost in the artist’s steady repertoire of hits. In no time, the 19-song set came to a close, but without the usual fanfare of an encore and noticeably absent any showing of the new record’s title-track. The triad of songs that closed out the night were “The War,” from their 2021 live album; the band’s biggest hit to date, “Where’s My Love;” and the final song from the new album, “Corduroy.”

With the exception of some of Racket’s overzealous security staff, the night’s main event proceeded smoothly. The venue’s acoustics were well-suited for the band’s intimate collection of songs, with the event space beautifully complimenting the soaring vocal affectations of SYML and the stylings of his equally impressive band. G&S

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