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Fucking in the Streets

The Understated Majesty of the xx

Fucking in the Streets

Aliya Naumoff

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"It's a very special night for us," the xx's Oliver Sim said in one of the band's only instances of between-song banter at last Monday night's show at the Showbox Sodo. "It's our first-ever headlining show in Seattle. It's very different from Neumos." Leave it to the xx to say it with understatement. Yeah, Showbox Sodo is rather different from Neumos. It's about 1,250 people bigger, for one thing, and it's earned an unfortunate reputation as a crap-sounding venue, a concrete box that bounces sound around to no good end. The xx had their own reputation to overcome, as well—that of a muted, introverted live band, the kind that might have trouble holding a venue that size at rapt attention. So two wins for last week's show, then: It was the first concert I've seen at the Showbox Sodo where everything sounded great everywhere in the venue, from the front of the stage on back to the beer pen. And the xx, as I saw at SXSW, have their live game tight, commanding the crowd with minimal fuss, just letting their spare, seductive songs speak for themselves.

Oh, and they had a pretty killer light show. A white scrim hung over the front of the stage for opening number "Intro," and the band played behind it, backlit, their shadows dramatically projected and flashing onto the scrim in multiples. First appeared Romy Madley Croft on guitar, and then, after the beat dropped, she was joined by Sim on bass and Jamie Smith, who played to the back of the stage but loomed larger on the screen than either of the others, tap-tapping out the beat on his MPC sampler. On the song's last note, the curtain fell to reveal the trio backed by a giant black X. The crowd—packed and hot up in the front—was going nuts here, screaming so much that it actually seemed to dwarf the band's objectively louder but perhaps not as extroverted sound.

The xx went on to play everything from their self-titled debut album, along with a cover of Kyla's "Do You Mind," killing it throughout, with personal highlights including "Islands" (that pivot point where Sim comes into the song gets me every time), "Heart Skipped a Beat," "Basic Space," and "VCR." They did the reverb- drippy ambient interlude "Fantasy"—a song I hadn't heard them do at SXSW and the kind of album cut that probably doesn't make it into abbreviated festival set lists often—Sim wrapping his mic cord around his hand and stalking the stage a bit while almost snarling (something about his profile, his presence, his pronunciation reminds me of Joe Strummer just a little), girls in the crowd squealing, the bass just shuddering—boooooooommmmmmm. Sim was relatively animated throughout the show, twisting side to side, slouching then straightening his spine, snakelike. They closed with "Infinity," doing an extended, amped-up outro on which Sim pounded at a cymbal that sat still for most of the band's set. They encored with "Stars," the stage backlit with constellations of white Christmas lights, the big black X a silhouette against them.

The band's next show around here is at Sasquatch!, yet another order of magnitude larger than Neumos, and I expect they'll be just as quietly captivating there. recommended

 

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