There wasn’t a single dull moment when famed English indie pop band The xx took the stage at the Georgia Theatre last Thursday, engaging the crowd with their eclectic beats and soothing lyrics.
The band performed in Athens, a small city and the central location for the University of Georgia (UGA). The Georgia Theatre is one of the city’s main venues, located a mere two blocks from the University’s quad. The xx has stated in the past that they like to try new, smaller regions for their concerts in order to keep things interesting, and they certainly did just that this week.
The theater itself is intimate, with exposed brick walls flanking the large stage on either side. Deep velvet curtains, a vintage bar circa 1980 and an upper loft area created a charming set for the concert, and myself and other concert-goers noted that the inclined floor and tight walls made for great acoustics.
Mood Rings, an Atlanta based indie-rock band, opened the show with a short set. The five-piece band played punk-inspired and psychedelic-sounding hits like “Pathos y Lagrimas” that transported the crowd back a couple of decades.
After a lengthy intermission – which ended up being approximately the same length as The xx’s set – the headliners finally took stage. The xx includes Oliver Sim on bass and vocals, Romy Madley Croft on guitar and vocals and Jamie Smith on beats and the MPC (music production center).
Croft and Sims have been together since they were young: they became fast friends as toddlers before attending the same secondary school. The duo eventually formed a two-member band before adding Smith and Baria Qureshi for beats and guitar. Qureshi ultimately separated from the band in 2009 due to irreconcilable, creative differences, much “like a divorce” as Croft once said.
But now The xx has found its rhythm, and it’s a good one. Clad in their signature black ensembles, the trio sauntered on stage and began singing “Crystalised” without any opening remarks. They were immediately greeted with enthusiastic cheers from the crowd. The upbeat tune set the stage for the entire concert as the crowd watched Sim and Croft swing around and latch onto each other like magnets.
After “Crystalised,” Sim addressed the crowd, thanking them for their support and informing them that Athens, Ga. was one of their many stops on the way from New York to Texas, where they are going to record their next album.
The trio followed Sim’s introduction with a new, unnamed song that will be featured on their forthcoming record. The new song, much like their earlier ones, featured deep beats by Smith but more xylophone-like sounds than their other tracks. Before making their way to Georgia, The xx gave a series of small shows in New York City in order to allow for more experimentation and to strip down the production process.
The set-list, like the venue, was intimate. The trio played a short selection of eight songs that covered everything from old favorites like “Shelter” from their eponymous debut album to newer hits like “Angels” off of their sophomore record, Coexist.
During “Shelter,” the entire crowd sang along, hanging onto each word that left Croft’s mouth. The beautiful song seemed to touch everyone in the venue as the crowd swayed methodically to the beat. Her rendition was more uplifting than the version on their record. The fresh take on their classic song featured lighter beats and a stronger presence of the xylophone and chimes done by Smith.
With each song, the audience was able to witness the unique relationship between Sim and Croft. They floated around the stage together as perfect complements, swaying to the beats that they create, while Smith (also known as Jamie xx, maintained his position behind his beats-station in the back.
When they played “VCR,” which features dialogue between Croft and Sim, the vocalists danced together in an oscillating fashion, allowing their minds to turn over the rhythms that they played. Everything about their chemistry came off as organic and entirely unrehearsed.
The trio ended the concert with “Angels,” what I believe to be one of the most beautiful tracks on their sophomore record. The vocals are done almost entirely by Croft with Sim swaying behind her in the background. The song, like the end of a concert, had a bittersweet tone with the heartfelt lyrics contrasting against the sorrowful melody.
I first saw The xx perform at the celebrated the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif. last year, but was equally impressed by the threesome the second time around. They maintained the same minimalism in both concerts with the simple black outfits and alluring lights show to complement the songs.
“This is nothing like Beyonce,” I heard an unidentified, female UGA student whining from behind me in the crowd in Athens. And yes indeed, she was right. At both concerts that I have been to, The xx created a show that is absolutely more unique than anything Beyonce could ever give us (no offense to Queen B). Their concerts rely not on flashy lights and gimmicky costumes but on the personas of the musicians and every note of the music itself.
The trio strips the show of all the unnecessary features that some would argue makes a concert an experience.
Their bodies and stage remain unadorned, the light show is striking but minimal enough that the music is the true star. In essence, The xx creates an experience based on their music alone and the dynamic between the artists, something that few musicians are truly able to do.
The xx does something utterly beautiful and unique in their concerts. Instead of playing the songs as they are on the record, the trio completely alters the beats, giving an energetic essence to their normally velvet-like pulses, leaving the crowd animated, enchanted and completely looking forward to whatever the next tour, and album, will bring.
– By Jasmine Tang