A First Date with the XX

November 12th, 2009

The XX/Jon Hopkins – The Bowery Ballroom – November 11, 2009

(Photo: Mina K)

(Photo: Mina K)

The XX show that sold out Mercury Lounge last night, and then subsequently The Bowery Ballroom, was one for the pretty people. It was a scene, but it was all the better thanks to the eye candy! Pretty people have good taste in music, too. Anyhow, Jon Hopkins, the opener, definitely deserves a mention because his fantastic mixing of melodies and crazy beats was unassuming, yet it totally entranced the jaded hipsters (some of whom even danced!) waiting for the headliners.

It was my first time seeing the XX live, in spite of the number of shows they have played in NYC over the last few months. At the start of their set I thought they sounded a bit forced, almost metronomic, and I kept wanting them to slip up. This distance, however, seems to be a calculated effort. Their seductive vocals are perfectly counterbalanced by the bass and synth beats, so seeing them live is, in the words of a friend, much like a first date—the initial impression is great, but the future potential is all in your imagination. This dynamic creates a very interesting energetic suspension, particularly on songs like “Basic Space,” and their closer, “Stars.” Listeners are drawn to the songs but slightly rebuffed before they can get inside them. Overall, the appeal of a band like the XX is much like the promise of a kiss (or more) at the end of the night—always something to look forward to, whether or not it actually happens. —Anna Loosli

(Jon Hopkins opens for the Asteroids Galaxy Tour tonight at Mercury Lounge.)