Thursday, February 14, 2013
Concert review: the xx delivered lowercase Goth-rock and uppercase light show
Singer-bassist Oliver Sim hinted that the band will play Austin City Limits Festival in October.
DALLAS If ever a band warranted a lowercase name, it’s the xx. The fast-rising London trio has earned a rabid following with hushed voices, skeletal beats, and stark melodies that recall Miles Davis’ famous quote: “It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play.”
Yet what made the xx so memorable Wednesday night at a sold-out Granada Theater wasn’t just its lowercase Goth-rock but its uppercase light show. As a fog-machine turned the room into the misty moors of Yorkshire, you half-expected Heathcliff to appear magically onstage. Instead, the fog became a canvas for slow-moving light art: Musicians vanished into vapors of quicksand, fans turned into ghosts who could walk through revolving glass doors, and clouds of green and pink danced eerily across the ceiling like the Northern Lights.
The arena-ready light effects should come in handy as the xx grows into bigger venues: The trio plays Coachella in April, and singer-bassist Oliver Sim hinted it will play Austin City Limits Festival in October. But the gloom-and-dazzle lights also fit well into the 1,000-capacity Granada and heightened the xx’s intimate songs.
On record, the xx can put you to sleep quicker than a fistful of Lunesta. But onstage, as the crowd buzzed and the lights swayed, the music sprung to life. Like Sim, Romy Madley Croft might not have much of a voice, but she pushed it to new heights of elegance on such new tunes as “Chained” and the show-opening “Angels.” Beside, her real voice came from inside her Gibson Les Paul guitar, which she played in the low-paced, high-echo style of New Order and the Cure.
Just when the music started to get too static, the xx threw a curveball, like the steel drums in “Reunion” or the joyous house-music beat of “Swept Away,” another tune from its second and latest disc, Coexist. The audience came alive as well, singing the “hiyee-yi-yi” chorus in “Crystalized” and tossing flowers onstage, which prompted Sim to compare his fans to followers of Morrissey.
Unlike the surly Pope of Mope, Sim never poked fun at his fans, and called the group’s 2010 show at the Granada a career highpoint. “You’re one of the most welcoming and warmest crowds we’ve ever had,” he said with utmost sincerity, proving that even the most morose-sounding Brits can show a little love when they want to.
Thor Christensen is a Dallas freelance writer.
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