The xx appeared as shadows behind a mesh screen hanging in front of the stage at Toronto’s Massey Hall on Oct. 23. Water images and florescent colors blended on the screen while the band opened with “Angels.”
I was lucky to catch the London trio in Canada because the devastating Sandy forced the group to postpone an Oct. 29 performance at New York’s Paradise Theater after it played there three days earlier.
In Toronto, Romy Madley Croft’s guitar sounded individual notes layered with echo over Oliver Sim’s bass and Jamie Smith’s drums. Croft’s soothing voice drew the audience closer, as did the rising screen, revealing the troika clad in black.
As strobe lights twirled, the group moved into the thumping “Heart Skipped a Beat.” It’s one of the many standout tracks from the 2010 Mercury Prize-winning debut record “xx.” Smith’s drum pads snapped behind Sim’s seductive voice. Croft soon joined, and the two voices complimented each other perfectly.
The xx carved out a niche as a minimalist pop outfit that fused elements of ’80s guitar licks, R&B bass lines and electronic drumming. Their 2012 sophomore release, “Coexist,” remains consistent with that simple approach.
Sims coolly walked the stage as he sung, “Fiction,” an airy number that featured Smith working the synths and drum pads simultaneously -- he multitasked all night. The lights went blue while smoke pumped across the stage for the ethereal “Fantasy,” with vocals drowned in reverb.
“Basic Space” had Madley Croft and Sim vocals jelling before Smith took over on his pads to create an electronic drum and bass solo jam. For the new tune “Reunion,” Smith, who maneuvered all evening around mounds of electronics, drum pads and an assortment of percussion-driven instruments, found himself behind a steel-drum setup.
The tropically flavored number soon segued into the dark yet bouncy “Sunset.” The crowd-lifting pulse continued as Croft’s guitar called out “Night Time.”
After a xylophone tapped out the introduction to “VCR,” a repetitive guitar scale and a slow bass line were all that was needed to have the crowd join in word-for-word on this little upbeat number.
The set closed on the drifting guitar notes and lulling vocals of “Infinity.” The calm soon collapsed with Sim singing the line “give it up” and Croft responding with “can’t give it up.” The music mushroomed around the vocals and a rear backdrop slowly rose unveiling a large crystal-clear X pierced by multicolored lights and the crowd’s cheering.
The xx is scheduled to return to the U.S. in January, so perhaps a make-up date will appear for the lost Oct. 29 show. Until then, The trio will be touring across Europe for the remainder of 2013.
Here’s a selection of New York-area shows in November. Please note that opening bands aren’t always listed. Shows marked (SO) are sold out, although online services such as Craigslist often have tickets:
Nov. 5 The Amazing at Mercury Lounge (Early Show) Nov. 6 The Luyas at Mercury Lounge (Early Show) Nov. 7 Gary Clark Jr. at Bowery Ballroom (SO) Nov. 8 The Fresh & Onlys/Quilt at Music Hall of Williamsburg Nov. 9 Cadence Weapon/Fat Tony at Glasslands Gallery Nov. 10 Tame Impala/The Amazing at Webster Hall (SO) Nov. 11 The Joy Formidable at Littlefield (SO) Nov. 12 Pinback at Irving Plaza Nov. 13 The Babies/Alex Bleeker and The Freaks at Knitting Factory Nov. 14 The Sword/Gypsy Hawk/Eagle Claw at Webster Hall Nov. 15 Sharon Van Etten at Town Hall Nov. 16 Phil Lesh & Friends at Capitol Theater (SO) Nov. 17 Matthew Dear at Webster Hall Nov. 18 A Place to Bury Strangers/Bleeding Rainbow at Bowery Ballroom Nov. 19 Metz at Mercury Lounge Nov. 20 Future Islands/Talk Normal/Dope Body at Music Hall of Williamsburg Nov. 21 Of Monsters and Men at Terminal 5 (SO) Nov. 22 A$AP Twelvyy at Highline Ballroom Nov. 23 Robert Randolph and The Family Band at Brooklyn Bowl Nov. 24 Saskatchewan/Vensaire/Orca Orca at Glasslands Gallery Nov. 26 Ray LaMontagne at Carnegie Hall Nov. 27 Delta Spirit/JEFF The Brotherhood/Fidlar at Irving Plaza Nov. 28 Sky Ferreira at Glasslands Gallery Nov. 29 The Gaslight Anthem at Terminal 5 (SO) Nov. 30 TNGHT at Music Hall of Williamsburg (SO)
(Jaime Widder works in sales for Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)
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