Review: ‘The xx’

The xx unveiled several new tunes from forthcoming sophomore album, "Coexist," during its first official U.S. show in two years on Monday evening.

The xx unveiled several new tunes from forthcoming sophomore album, “Coexist,” during its first official U.S. show in two years on Monday evening. The crowd at the sold-out Fonda Theatre screamed in anticipation when a black curtain rose with a multicolored x projected onto it, signifying the comeback of the critically acclaimed purveyors of soulful indie rock whose self-titled debut album won the coveted Mercury Prize in their native Britain two years ago.

When the curtain fell, dramatically revealing the trio standing behind their instruments, the crowd went wild, and it quickly became apparent to the notoriously shy band that they were among friends. They opened with new single “Angels,” which perfectly exemplifies the haunting minimalist soundscape that endeared them to so many on their debut album. Singer-guitarist Romy Madley Croft’s sweet, breathy vocals rang out true and clear, illustrating a newfound confidence that was lacking at many of the band’s earlier performances in support of its debut full-length.

The band then segued into “Islands,” a popular early tune, and Madley Croft and bassist/vocalist Oliver Sim adeptly swapped vocals, highlighting their unique vocal alchemy. Beat and synth master Jamie Smith showed off his chops later in the evening by remixing and adding extended beats to some of the tunes.

“This is our first proper show in the States for two years. How have you been?” Sim asked during one of the few exchanges the band had with the crowd, and the band continued on to play a few more debut album tunes including “Fiction” and “Basic Space.” They then switched gears, introducing a handful of new tracks from the album due out in September.

While many bands go in a new direction on their sophomore album or try to kick things up a notch, the xx seem satisfied to continue doing what it does so well — creating an ethereal, otherworldly atmosphere using a minimalist, mature approach to tales of love and longing.

Although the xx’s musical prowess is sizable, they still haven’t developed much stage presence. These self-confessed “social outcasts” usually refrain from interacting with each other or the audience while playing their instruments, which — despite the impressive stage light display — can make for a less than exciting live experience. That said, what the band lack in showmanship it more than makes up for in musical dexterity. So it seems — for the time being, anyway — the xx are content to let the music speak for itself.

The xx

The Fonda Theatre; 1,200 capacity; $30 top


Presented by Goldenvoice. Performers: Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim, Jamie Smith. Reviewed July 23, 2012
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