Return of the xx
First of two nights at the Moody has ’em dancing in the aisles
By Abby Johnston,
12:05PM, Thu. May 11, 2017
Four long years have passed since the xx sold out consecutive nights downtown at the Moody Theater. On Wednesday, first installment of this succeeding two-show stand, the general admission crowd on the floor pressed into the barriers to get up close to the London trio. Fueled by that energy and a fervent “oh-em-gees”-ness, the xx delivered.
Rotating, ceiling-high reflective columns bounced colorful lights emanating from the fully stripped stage, which resembled an updated disco dance floor. The stage set-up proved perfect, but it takes a lot of technical tinkering to strike the right shade of quiet yet commanding bedroom rock. For 90 minutes, they did just that, however.
Under its breath and out loud, the house sang along to debut album hit “Crystallized” as Jamie Smith (aka Jamie xx) hopped off the electronics and switched to primal acoustic drumming. He seemed to overpower Romy Madley Croft’s intentional and methodical guitar lines, which were a few beats behind the bass and drums. It hardly mattered to their Austin chorus.
Midway through, Croft swaped a bunk in-ear monitor and everything restored back to its polished precision. The frontwoman and bassist Oliver Sim traded off vocal leads, both necessarily pristine for the stark, elemental presentation of the electric trio’s melodious minimalism. “Infinity,” which mimics a sultry Chris Isaak aesthetic, built up from sparse separate lines into a final wall of sound. Although the threesome offered the hits they built their career on, the crowd was equally entranced with cuts from January’s third album, I See You, which ceded control to percussive guru Smith.
Croft retired her guitar for “Dangerous,” letting the latter’s live-mixed horn samples carry the melody with a thumping, house-style bass underneath it. The band borrowed his solo cut “Loud Places” as its first closer since Croft sang lead on the recording. Spare beats finally swelled into a euphoric chorus, whipping the audience into a frenzy.
One moment of clarity appeared in the middle of the three-song encore. Croft took the lead with “Intro,” an almost entirely instrumental track driven by her dancing guitar licks. This simple, early-career song – literally employed per its title originally – doubled as a rallying cry to people in the balcony, who shot up out of their seats and danced in the aisles.