SXSW Music 2010
Reviewed by Marc Savlov, Fri., March 26, 2010
The XXCentral Presbyterian Church, Friday, March 19
Initially, London-based trio the XX garnered some of the worst word of mouth at SXSW. Die-hard fans eager for a first taste of the synth-poppers' romantic gloom were treated to a 90-minute sound check at Mohawk earlier, which ended in god-awful sound and drums (machine) that rolled over the group's delicate, gently swelling harmonies like a steamroller over a fresh grave. Perhaps it was the dismal weather outside – cold, damp, perfect for this particular brand XX – because their performance beneath the hugely vaulted ceiling here, before a standing-room-only crowd that surely had the minister pondering the sin of jealousy, was downright heavenly. Instrumental opener "Intro," beginning with a few subtle tone shifts before adding guitarist Oliver Sim's pointed, single-note theme and Smith's genuinely epic-sounding drum work, came as close as anything to receiving a standing ovation. As it was, nearly every track from the threesome's self-titled debut was welcomed with abundant praise and wild applause. Built for acoustical perfection, the Central Presbyterian Church added its own holy flavor to Sim and co-vocalist Romy Madley-Croft's ethereal back-and-forth confessionals. "Crystalised" took on a whole new aura in this setting, and singles "Heart Skipped a Beat" and the sweet, retro-ache of "VCR" sounded full, lush, and awash in the sort of sepulchral sadness that only a venue such as this could offer.