Britain’s The xx has skyrocketed to success and popularity in a ridiculous amount of time. I remember seeing them live a couple of years ago in the midst of their debut (and only) album where they sold out the Hollywood Palladium, which is one of the larger venues in Los Angeles. And on Monday night, they returned to the city to play in front of a sold-out crowd at The Fonda Theater – a first of three Los Angeles shows (they’ll be playing the Hollywood Palladium and Hollywood Forever Cemetery, both of which sold out in a matter of hours from when they went on sale).
Of course, The xx is touring with a reason – they’ll be releasing their second album in September entitled Coexist. The (now) trio consisting of guitarist Romy Madley-Croft, bassist Oliver Sim, and producer/programmer/beat maker Jamie Smith (or Jamie XX) maximize their music with a rather very minimal arrangement, and that’s where their appeal lies. They create music that’s sensual, romantic, and dramatic, and it only resonates in a live setting where a live crowd can experience those feelings in person. Not to mention that both Madley-Croft and Sim each have a unique timbre to their seductive singing style.
The band came out on stage donned in all-black with two large, transparent ‘X’s’ adorned on the stage that was filled with smoke. As the first date on their headlining tour, it was appropriate that they opened with their newest single, “Angels.” From there, the band had the crowd hypnotized for the rest of the night. The majority of their set consisted of songs from their first album, going from “Angels” to “Islands.” “Islands” exemplified the seductive call-and-response vocal interplay between Madley-Croft and Sim that brought a great dynamic in a live setting, especially with the crowd cheering whenever one of them would begin singing a new line.
“Crystalized,” “VCR,” and “Basic Space” were a bit more subdued and slower compared to the version on record, but it obviously came off as more intimate while maintaining and emphasizing the crisp guitar and bass riffs that weave with the electronic beats.
It wasn’t surprising to see the set include new songs such as “Swept Away,” “Reunion,” and “Sunset.” If there was any worry regarding The xx’s direction with new songs, those worries were immediately alleviated as the new songs were definitely more upbeat and faster in tempo. While the themes of the songs still address themes such as love, longing, and romance, the melodies are catchy as ever, dancing along with Smith’s post-dubstep beats (you know, like SBTRKT and James Blake).
While their sound and setup may be minimal and intimate, the echoes and reverb that emanate from their instrumentation are ethereal that seem to transcend the space. That may not make sense, but no matter where you stood in the venue, their sound traveled and kept on traveling and adds a lot to the overall tone of their music.
For their encore, they opened up with “Intro” that led into another new song, “Tides.” The harmonized vocals, again, emphasized. They ended the night with “Stars,” a song about trying to resolve tension between two lovers. The vocal interplay during the lines “if you want me/let me know/where do you wanna go” surely sent chills up the backs of everyone in the crowd, marking a great way to end a mesmerizing set.
With The xx hitting the road once again and with a new album in the midst of release, there’s no doubt that they will be stirring the headlines of many music publications. If you have the chance to catch them live, do so. But do it quickly since what ever town they roll through, it will no doubt be a sell-out.
Heart Skipped a Beat