I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t expecting much from The xx concert at the Fillmore last night. I thought their set would be sleepy, pretty, but nothing especially memorable. I will also be the first to admit that I was totally out of my mind WRONG. The xx, a band garnering attention from all sorts of music fans, brought to Miami an energy and aesthetic that made the sold out show a killer one. Before I delve into what made their performance so special, I mustn’t forget to mention the opening band, Austra.
Austra is a synthpop/ dance band hailing from Toronto, and I can see why they would be set up to open for The xx. There’s a similar thread in their deep bass themes that cross over to the kind of music that The xx have continuously produced. Fronted by Katie Stelmanis, her soaring vocals road smoothly over the thumping beats. I wish I could give this band an A+ on their set, but in all honesty, it just felt way too familiar. A problem I find in many emerging indie bands is that though none of them are necessarily terrible, they lack a fresh originality and end up blending into a crowd of electronic. It might sound harsh, but as I tried to enjoy their set, I couldn’t help but think of all the other bands they reminded me of. Austra felt a lot like Zola Jesus, but not as dynamic and wild on stage.
Following Austra’s exit from the stage, a transparent white curtain was put up. As the lights went down, the opening notes of “Angels” crept in just as a spotlight began to show behind the curtain, revealing Romy Madley Croft, guitar in hand. She began to croon the opening lines in her soft and personal voice that endlessly enchants listeners. On the face of the curtain was a projection of the now familiar oil and water combination that is found on the cover of their latest album Coexist. The colors swirled slowly as the audience sang along the heartfelt lyric, “Being as in love with you as I am. Being as in love, love, love”…the curtain dropped. The audience screamed.
They continued on with “Heart Skipped a Beat”, and immediately you understood what their presence on stage felt like. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel their immense power and control up there. They seemed to know exactly what they were doing while still having fun and being personable. They even mentioned a few times how pleased they were with the turnout, and how they regretted waiting so long to visit Miami. Each member brought something perfectly unique to the show, and we could really witness how their “coexistence” has ended up crafting their sound. A sound, mind you, that was twisted about during this set. Some songs were slowed down, others were more like remixed versions. They figured out a way to keep the gig dynamic and fun whilst staying true to the sentiment of their songs.
One member who stood out though, was bassist and vocalist Oliver Sim. As if his voice alone didn’t pull at our heartstrings, his presence in front of a crowd was magnetic. Swinging and swaying low with his bass, he’d lunge and swoop into the beats, keeping his eyes always on the audience. In this serpent like dance, he demanded our attention, as if his sensual yet sincere voice wasn’t already to die for and hadn’t thus far put hearts in our eyes. The show was endlessly seductive.
And that’s the thing about The xx’s music. Their songs aren’t full of lavish and complex transitions, rather they have a steady and hypnotic sound that supports the real gut of the music- the steak and beans if you will- which are the ardently relatable lyrics and intimate tones of both the singer’s voices. They sing our past, present and future lives of romance, heartache and regret. Listening to them live is like falling in love with some lovely yet unreachable entity. But with the beats and pulsations conjured up by Jamie xx, we retrieve some sort of hope through this common ground and can dance the loneliness away. And dance we did.
“Heart Skipped A Beat”