The xx, Electric Factory, last night by MEREDITH KLEIBER
After a solid performance from Toronto natives Austra, a white curtain fell from the Electric Factory ceiling, separating the crowd from the stage at the sold-out show. A little over half an hour passed, the lights went down, and desperate screams erupted from the mostly teenybopper audience as an artsy design somewhat resembling a woman’s head projected onto the curtain and two silhouettes emerged into spotlights on either side of the stage. The xx had arrived. The uber-chill London band eased into their hour-plus set with the haunting, yet serene “Angels,” which also serves as the opening song on their sophomore album, Coexist. The trio played a well-balanced mix of songs from their self-titled debut and Coexist, transitioning dexterously between such hypnotic ballads as “Chained” (a new version that they claim to have screwed up in New York but played beautifully in Philadelphia) and more upbeat songs, like the entrancing “Sunset” and their first encore, “Tides.” Their set was enhanced by an intense, almost seizure-inducing light show, which, when combined with the spellbinding backdrops and enveloping smoke, spawned a perfectly dreamlike atmosphere. Band members Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim, and their DJ, Jamie Smith, amplified their signature melancholic minimalism with heavy bass and electronic drumbeats, an element that turned a potentially soporific show into a riveting live performance. — MEREDITH KLEIBER
PREVIOUSLY: When the band takes the stage in a haze of dry ice, a giant milky white X pierces the darkness like the Bat Signal, as singer-guitarist Romy Madley Croft launches into the ghostly arpeggio that opens “Angels”, the lead off track and first single from their new LP Coexist. The capacity crowd is transfixed from the get-go and will remain so for the next 90 minutes. The band is flawless in its execution of choice selections from their debut leavened with a generous helping of new material, and the light show is visually stunning, resembling nothing so much as an indoor version of the Aurora Borealis. The three years since the release of their debut have clearly been kind to the band. They have shed the baby fat, downmarket haircuts, low-budget Goth wardrobe and awkward posturing of their earliest press photos. They look poised, confident, stylishly-coiffed and impeccably-groomed with all three dressed head to toe in their trademark ink-stained black. They have, by all outward appearances, grown into their fame. In short, they wear it well.
At the end of the night, when they kick off a three-song encore with “Intro,” they somehow trigger the fire alarm. The audience rises to it’s feet but nobody leaves and the band keeps playing. The klaxon sounds like just another sample dropped into the mix by DJ/percussionist Jaimie-xx. Sometimes where there is smoke, there is no fire. Just a screaming alarm blissfully ignored by 686 not-so-secret admirers. Afterwards, in the men’s room the guy at the urinal next to me offers an unbidden but no less astute summation of the band. “They don’t make any wrong moves, it’s kinda like poetry — they give you as little as possible,” he says before flushing. MORE