photos by Toby Tenenbaum; words by Andrew Sacher
The xx at Terminal 5, 8/2/2012
The xx released their hugely buzzed about debut, xx, back in 2009, and then kept pretty quiet after their 2010 tour ended. Now they're set to release its followup, Coexist, on September 11, just over three years since xx came out, which begs the question: do The xx still have it or was xx just a random stroke of genius and a bit of luck? Going by their show at Terminal 5 last night (8/2), their first of four NYC shows since 2010 on their North American tour (three of which, including last night, are sold out), I'd say they more than still have it. The crowd reactions were some of the most massive I've seen at any show this year. For almost any given moment of material from their debut being played, most of the 3,000 or so people in Terminal 5 were singing along at the top of their lungs. Even during the band's opening song, "Angels," the single off the new album, a huge chunk of the crowd already knew every word.
Any fears that the relatively quiet band wouldn't be able to handle a large venue like Terminal 5 were immediately crushed as well. At exactly 9:30 the lights in the venue shut off and the band's giant 'X' appeared lit up on the stage's backdrop, and from that moment on the band had complete control of the entire night. They played drowned in fog and glowing pastel colored floodlights, with sleepy visuals drifting behind them. Frontpeople Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim performed with the sultriness of R&B singers but swung their guitars like rockers, and Jamie xx took over the backline with countless boards, drum pads, acoustic drums, and more. Their sound includes many reference points -- the wandering guitar of Beach House, the singer/songwriter meets beatmaker approach which is shown in their influence on James Blake -- but The xx truly have their own sound, and the new material continues to reflect that. Jamie xx has said he has a more prominent role in the songwriting for the new album, and it shows. The deep house of "Reunion" and the dancey "Swept Away" reflect an influence from the club scene that Jamie's solo work has ties to, and when combined with the band's signature guitar/bass/vocal work, it marks unchartered territory for The xx.
Though the show provided increased anticipation for the new record, it was largely about old favorites as well. Every song on their debut was performed, with the largest moments coming during "VCR," "Islands," and Jamie's huge crashes in "Infinity." They began their encore with "Intro," which saw the band and the lightshow at their most intense of the night, and because of the wordless song gave the crowd nothing to sing to, they provided piercing shouts of applause throughout the entire thing. Like they usually do, they ended the set with a reworked version of "Stars," which sees Jamie bringing in heavy beats at the end, in comparison to the more somber album version. This show wasn't easy to pick a standout from, but if pressed, that performance of "Stars" had to be it.
The band's next NYC show is the much smaller Staten Island venue Snug Harbor Music Hall on Monday (8/6), which tickets are still available for. After that, they'll continue to tour North America and make their way back to NYC for two sold shows in the Bronx at the Paradise Theater in October.
The show began with a DJ set from Jacques Greene and a live set from New Look. More pictures from last night's show are below.
The xx Terminal 5 8/2/12 Setlist:
Heart Skipped a Beat
Swept Away (Take Care intro)