Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"So don't think that I'm pushing you away/When you're the one that I've kept closest..."

Living in Chicago I am very fortunate to have many amazing bands come play live at one of the many venues in the city. And I know I am very spoiled that if I miss a band they will come back in 6 months to a year. I also had this luxury in DC and NYC.

The xx, http://www.thexx.info/, have been to Chicago I think at least two times since their debut album, xx, was released last year. And on April 8th they would be back again headlining and then a week later, coming back opening for Hot Chip at The Riv. I missed them their previous times here, but I did catch them on the 8th at Lincoln Hall, the city’s newest venue owned by the same guys who own Schuba’s. I had been to Lincoln Hall in October to see a local band do their Halloween show and the space was beautiful. So I was pretty excited to go back.

I got there a little bit on the early side since it was a sold out show (in fact they added an early show in the evening a few weeks later, which also sold out) and I was going by myself, and I wanted to secure a good spot after scoping out the place. When the doors opened I started out on the floor but realized the balcony area (with chairs) would be a better bet. The xx plays such chill music I didn’t really need to be in the mix of things.

The opening band was called jj, a Swedish band whose lead singer, Elin, was taking my roommate Jo’s look but not doing it justice: http://www.secretlycanadian.com/artist.php?name=jj. Elin had a very pretty voice and at first she was just solo on stage singing away and playing the guitar. The lyrics we not very good though. And I am not sure if it is because they wrote them in English or maybe things got lost in translation. But most of the songs were about getting high, and it came across like a middle school kid trying to appear cool when he uses the work “f*ck,.” At some point the other member of the band, Joakim, came out and took over guitar duties. From time to time he would whisper something in Elin’s ear as she sang. They also had a screen that would show them roaming around a beach or performing live. Then they would also show nature shots or focus on an Italian soccer player. Very random. They were not so much my thing, but maybe because they also use the same letter twice for a band name people thought they would be a good opener for The xx.

When The xx took the stage the venue was full. Considering they only have one album and it clocks in at around 39 minutes (on a good day), I knew the show was going to be short and that they would probably play all 11 tracks. I was correct. I enjoyed seeing them live, but to be honest it wasn’t spectacular. They played most of the songs in either a slower (if you can believe it) or a faster tempo. I was able to do a little dancing while in my seat, but I knew it wasn’t going to be a full on dance party…even though secretly I wished it were.

Visually they used a lot of lights that often drowned them out or blinded us in the audience. It helped create an ambient, dream like mood which matches well with their music. They had bright white Xs on their keyboard/synth/DJ area and those stood out from time to time and were really cool.

I am not sure how they were when they opened for Hot Chip, but I imagine they were the same. They will also be back in Chicago in August for Lollapalooza. Which will be interesting. I wonder how their sound will carry at an outdoor festival.

I wouldn’t rush out to go see The xx live again, but I wouldn’t be disappointed either. Maybe as they keep touring and release another album their live shows will change. I love their debut album though and I will continue listening to it in the meantime.


P.S. Here are some videos people took of the show. Even though they aren’t the best you can get an idea of what it was like.

“Basic Space”

“Crystalized” (my favorite song)


“Night Time” (on “Later…with Jools Holland” just so you can see a clear live performance)

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