Thursday, August 2
Better than: Watching one of the 500+ iPhone concert videos on YouTube.
Near the end of last night’s performance, Jamie Smith Oliver Sim—a third of the English indie pop band The xx—needed to make a confession. “We were terrified before we walked on stage,” he mused a bit sheepishly, like a child confessing to his parent that he ate all the cookies. The crowd erupted with support, and even from a distance, it seemed that the singer/producer did something that he rarely, if ever, does on stage: He smiled.
He had things to be happy about, after all. Walking down the long stretch of mostly empty streets and avenues to Terminal 5’s hangar-like space taught concertgoers that the $50 tickets were being scalped for about five times their worth; a woman working the box office said that she had a pile of at least 200 fake tickets. The show was so hyped that yesterday afternoon, the Mercury Prize winners announced another concert for New York residents on Monday at the Music Hall at Snug Harbor on Staten Island. This all is not too surprising, really. It was The xx’s first NYC performance in about two years, and their second album Coexist finally comes out in September, more than three years after their 2009 debut.
To start the show, the lights vanished as a large, ominous X appeared above the stage. It quickly filled with a smokey rainbow of colors as the droning, melodic guitar riff from “Angels,” Coexist‘s lead single, filled the room. The lights came up, slowly and carefully, and Romy Madley-Croft’s soft, enticing voice crept into the microphone. “Light reflects from your shadow; it is more than I thought could exist,” she whispered, like she was telling a capacity crowd her most revealing secret. But the attendees already knew it; a choir of 3000 voices joined in, singing along to every single word. Later, Jamie Oliver would state the obvious: “This city has been great to this band.”
The set, which lasted a little over an hour, sprinkled in new songs while managing to perform nearly every track from their debut and offering as much a visual experience as a musical one. Each song had its own lighting effect, pulsing and changing with the heavy beats and synths—sometimes colored, other times black and white. Couples held hands, leaned into chests, sang into ears, slow-danced, and kissed necks while, on stage, Jamie Oliver and Romy had their own dance, walking, grooving, mirroring each others’ moves, their shadows flickering. They’d pass lyrics back and forth like a baton, like on “Heart Skips a Beat.” “Sometimes, I still need you,” Romy ached, her voice slightly cracking, just as he would respond with the same heartbreaking words.
Before the last song of the performance, Jamie Oliver made his confession and then tried to thank the audience. “Tried” is the appropriate word, because as he and Romy stood together, they couldn’t even be heard among the cheering. Instead, they grabbed their instruments one last time for “Stars,” xx‘s closing track, a song that sounds like sex when you’re in love, and a moment that justified the $250 scalper price-tag. Built on the soft pulsing of a bass guitar, the rendition carefully and meticulously grew. Before the climax, Romy crooned, “If you want me, why go?” At that moment, a sonic boom and white light exploded from the stage—the sound waves could be felt rushing over leg hairs—and then exploded again, and again, and again, and again. By the end, The xx had disappeared into the darkness, leaving a single, white X etched out above the stage.
Critical bias: I didn’t have a +1, so I didn’t have anyone to make out with.
Overheard: “Can you feel this shit?”
Random notebook dump: So many makeouts.