Romy Madley Croft, the frontwoman of British indie-pop act The xx, found herself speechless when she came to address their concert-goers Tuesday night at the NBC Tent. As she was about to speak, she paused—and that was all the time the crowd needed to go for the loudest cheer of the night, as if to let her know, “Yes, that was an amazing night.” It was extremely fortunate then that frontman Oliver Sim was there to articulate what was written on his female counterpart’s face: “Thank you. We weren’t expecting this.”
Meanwhile at the back, the band’s third member, Jamie Smith, coolly twiddled the night away with his assortment of electronic soundmakers—samplers, drum machines, synthesizers, and, somewhere, a calculator. Together, these three whipped up that sparse, distinct xx sound for a Tuesday evening that’s definitely more exciting than your weekly jog at The Fort.
For one night, the band’s moody, mostly quiet love songs morphed into a live affair that had the packed house feverish at times. The xx is quite the opposite of arena rock, but with thoughtful tweaks to their sound and an army of lights, they made a room full of people very happy.
They emerge with “Try,” a song from their second and most recent album, Coexist.
Like the song, the audience’s first encounter with the band is slow and gentle. A loopy synth line kicks in, signaling the start, and, on cue, a field of smartphones shoot up. Initially, all you see are these mysterious figures awash in a sea of soft, white light blasting from behind. Through the fog, Oliver Sim’s deep voice cuts in, and a verse after, Romy Madley Croft catches up in stride to provide harmony.
Throughout the concert, the two take turns playing up the crowd. Oliver would dance around with his bass guitar, while Romy would whisper her lines just loud enough, as if to tell the audience to come closer. Sometimes, they would face each other, and play their parts like two actors feeding each other lines. Jamie played like he was doing a live remix of the tracks, letting the deep bass notes linger a little longer while also boosting the force of his beats at times.
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