Tag Archives: Jamie Smith

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The xx Sparkle at Radio City Music Hall

September 24th, 2013

The xx – Radio City Music Hall – September 23, 2013

The xx have managed to bypass any questions of a sophomore slump with their follow-up album, Coexist. Not much has changed with their overall sound, and fans are still enamored by their songs. The trio quietly fills atmospheres with a serenity that manages to encapsulate the attention of an entire audience. Their first gig at a sold-out Radio City Music Hall last night wouldn’t be any different. The delicate male-and-female vocals of Oliver Sim and Romy Madley-Croft effortlessly wove against the vast, ornate backdrop of the famed New York City establishment.

As floodlights blinded the audience, the black-clad trio took their places onstage setting off the evening with “Try.” Fans quickly rose for “Heart Skipped a Beat,” a favorite from the British three-piece’s debut album, xx. Another track from it, “Crystalised,” was reimagined with the delivery slowly dragged out for added drama. The night really took a turn as beats master Jamie Smith (aka Jamie xx) intertwined his own song “Far Nearer” with “Reunion.” From behind his MPC, the intro of delicately rattling steel drums climaxed into a series of double and triple beats, moving onlookers to dance among the velvet-upholstered seats. Smith continued his reign, undoubtedly breathing new life into familiar tune “Shelter.” With a crazy level of layered thump, Radio City became a nightclub sporting rays of lasers.

With little talk between songs, Sim’s few words describing the experience of playing the hallowed hall as “surreal” resonated with fans. “An incredible moment for us. This was just something we started as a hobby in our bedroom.” Nearing the end of the set, the audience joined in to sing, “I can’t give it up” on “Infinity.” Not to leave the crowd wanting more, the trio returned to encore with “Intro” and “Angels.” The latter fittingly closed the night with lyrics “Being as in love with you as I am/ Being as in love, love, love”—to which, Sim made a heart shape with his hands as he exited the stage. The love was, needless to say, mutual. —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com

(The xx and Polica play Radio City Music Hall again tonight.)

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The xx Leave Them Wanting More

January 28th, 2013

The xx – Hammerstein Ballroom – January 25, 2013


Both on record and during their live performances, London’s the xx have proved to be masters of dramatic tension. Although their music can be lush and layered, for the most part the band gives their songs room to breathe—spare guitar lines and plaintive vocals are followed by heavy pauses, and percussion often doesn’t kick in until mid-song. While this can be a potential test of patience on their records, live, the xx expertly play with these moments, building exhilarating tension as the crowd waits for that beat to kick in or that hook to start. Because of this, an xx show can feel like a well-executed tease.

At their sold-out show at the Hammerstein Ballroom on Friday night, the trio had the crowd in the palm of their hand from opening song “Angels”—performing the intro on a dark stage while obscured by a screen projected with abstract, shape-shifting images. As the beat kicked in, the screen dropped, revealing the black-clad band beneath three striking spotlights. But moments later, they were once again shrouded in darkness, and the song was over, like a sharp knife, expertly polished and leaving a clean cut.

The band performed a mix of newer songs from their 2012 album, Coexist, alongside crowd favorites like “VCR,” “Night Time” and “Crystalised” from their self-titled 2009 debut album. The moody, understated material and dim stage managed to create the intimate environment their music demands. The trio’s tunes have a subtle but undeniable inclination toward electronic music, and the dance breakdowns emphasized on songs like the steel drum–augmented “Reunion,” as well as “Night Time” and “Sunset,” contrasted the precise and exacting nature of the their music with moments of abandon and release. Of course, the xx were sure to cut off these uninhibited moments after not too long, always leaving us wanting more. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of JC McIlwaine | jcmcilwaine.com

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The xx Hold Up Their End of the Bargain

August 3rd, 2012

The xx – Terminal 5 – August 2, 2012


The xx are one of those bands critics sometimes narrowly define by considering the ideal setting to listen to their music. They are “music for the bedroom” or, even worse, “make-out music.” Either categorization is cringe-worthy, but it does beg the question of how the delicate minimalism of the xx can translate into a live setting, especially in a large venue like Terminal 5. With a new album on the way (Coexist comes out here on 9/11), the xx played a few shows in big U.S. cities before returning to Europe for a several more.

And last night New York City was fortunate enough to be one of those cities, giving fans the chance to hear some of the new material as well as old favorites off the band’s instant-classic debut. With a giant X illuminated in the background, the xx opened with the new tune “Angels.” And judging from how many in the audience were singing along to every word, it already seems to be a new favorite. Older songs like “Crystalised,” off their self-titled debut album, when performed live, sounded even more sparse and slowed down than on their recordings. The track was stripped down to its few vital elements, making it seem fragile enough that it could disintegrate into nothingness at any moment, like the song’s own survival seemed beautifully hinged on the words being sung.

To set the mood throughout the set, the house and stage lights were limited to shades of white, black and the occasional blue. At various times, the show was unexpectedly danceable. The first half of “Night Time” was performed without a drum beat, so when it finally kicked in, it was like the song became whole with the addition of a driving rhythm that was outlined to be there. But in other instances, like on “VCR,” the heartbeat-mimicking drum-and-bass rhythm was the music’s backbone. From the slight reinterpretations of their old songs to the sneak peak of new ones, it’s safe to say that the xx hold up their end of the bargain live. The music was engaging enough that, quite thankfully, there was very little making out for this “make-out music.” —Dan Rickershauser

Photos courtesy of Diana Wong | dianawongphoto.com

(The xx play Music Hall at Snug Harbor Cultural Center in Staten Island on Monday and the Paradise Theater in the Bronx on 10/26 and 10/28.)