With only one album to their name, London natives The xx performed like seasoned pros at the 9:30 club on the chilly night of Oct. 5. The reigning indie cool kids reflected the themes of minimalism and intimacy on their 2009 self-titled debut album in their mature, refined performance, seducing the sold-out crowd.
Vocalists Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim breathed the sensual lyrics, almost as if the audience was eavesdropping on an exchange between lovers — if those lovers were inexplicably hip, had matching haircuts and outfits, and were followed around by an MPC sampler played by Jamie Smith. The nearly pitch-black 9:30 — save for the artsy, bright backlighting, “xx” on the MPC booth, and a strobe “x” backdrop — created a chilling atmosphere that perfectly complimented Smith’s cool, crisp beats, Croft’s catchy guitar melodies and Sim’s rolling bass lines.
Starting off the set with the appropriate “Intro,” a drum ‘n’ bass-based intro of its own, xx set the tone that this show would be a slightly tweaked version of their album. With only 12 songs, the setlist was a jumbled version of the album’s tracklist, featuring covers of Womack & Womack’s “Teardrops” and Robin S.’s “Show Me Love.” The xx shined on “Show Me Love;” the lighter, dancier feel worked well against the more subdued original tracks.
Excited gasps came from the otherwise reserved audience within the opening notes of more popular songs “Crystalised,” “Basic Space,” “Vcr” and “Islands.” Minor tweaks like a slowed, a cappella end to “Basic Space” and extra dance beats in several songs were fantastic additions that helped break a too-close adhesion to their album’s sound.
A chilling, creepy side to “Fantasy” was revealed live, but the standouts were closing songs, “Night Time” and “Infinity.” Smith’s additions with the MPC sampler and drum machine brought “Night Time” to life and gave the song a driving, building feel that proved why The xx has earned so much hype in the past two years. Finale “Infinity” started off with a yearning intro of the call-response “Give it up / I can’t give it up” between the crooning Sim and cooing Croft. The same back and forth section at the end of the song was predictably prolonged, powerfully building to the end of the cool, jamming set.
Croft, Sim and Smith played a one-song encore, “Stars,” with a newly-lit background to match. Despite not being the strongest song in the set, “Stars” perfectly summed up the show: sexy, chill and a notch above the quality of the album.