the xx [2010]

Fox Theater
Oakland, CA
16 April 2010

“They just stand there.”

Is what my hipster Brooklyn friend warned me, a couple weeks before the show, about seeing The XX live. But I’ve grown accustomed to filtering her negativity towards indie acts. I mean, it must be tough seeing one amazing band after another, week after week, at wild Williamsburg house parties. Then again, perhaps I should have taken her words closer to face value.

As it turns out, The XX, sultry sirens of 80s-inspired drum machine electronica, do indeed just stand there. This was my first time seeing the band live, so all I knew were the incredibly smooth and intimate male/female vocals flowing methodically over equally smooth, exquisitely-simple keyboards and beats. Wrapped up inside all of this, a sexual energy rarely found outside of traditional R&B slow jams. Good stuff.

So my friend’s warning wasn’t doing a lot to dampen my hopes for a live performance of this same sultry magic. Who cares if they just stand there? Was my logic. I don’t need spectacle and stage dives. Especially for this band.

But watching The XX just stand there, moving mere inches during the course of their entire set, I realized that it wasn’t their literal stagnancy that bothered me, but the greater lethargy that it demonstrated. There is an incredible, subtle urgency to their recorded music, despite its quiet calm and relatively slow pacing.

There was no urgency on this night. Yes, the songs were recognizable. There were moments of beauty and excitement sprinkled throughout the evening. But there was no sustained movement, no electricity. Crescendos led to nothing but disappointment.

And yet I believe. I hold in my hands tickets to see them again, this time at Great American. I tell myself that it was the fault of The (wily) Fox. Beautiful venue, but entirely too cavernous for such an intimate sound. It will be different this time. The energy will be there. The magic will return. Perhaps they might even move.