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 |

(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.)