The xx at the Fillmore Auditorium, 6-3-13 (photos, review)By Matt Miller | June 4th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
If you sit in a dark room long enough, you start to distinguish the difference between shades of grey — touches of blue in one, a brown in another. A bright light would drown out all of these subtleties, but a dull glow can make them all roar. And that’s the magic of seeing The xx live. The mood is steadily dark, the tempos slow, but as the atmosphere settles, you start to appreciate little details, such as a rare upward inflection in Oliver Sim’s voice on “VCR.”
It’s a wonder that a band like The xx can survive in 2013, where fans adhere to gratuitous stimulation and instant gratification. And here in Denver, enough fans had the patience to sell out the 3,700-capacity Fillmore Auditorium for a slow-building but rewarding set from the London band on Monday.
Each dressed in full black, producer Jamie xx, Romy Croft and Sim of The xx spent an hour testing the limitations of this patience. On “Crystalised,” Croft hovered before singing “eyeyeye,” letting the audience sing the chorus where they expected it, only to deliver it a few beats later where she wanted it. The band understands that this teasing is what the audience wants, like in the same song, where Jamie dropped into a four-to-the-floor dance beat, only to immediately slow it down as Croft and Sim sang, “go slow.”
There would be bursts of this EDM throughout the set, thanks to experimentation from Jamie. They’d feel a little out of place, but at the same time be welcome moments to let loose from the ever-building tension.
For the most part, though, it was an exercise in holding back. Singing in hushed tones, as if telling a secret, Croft and Sim sauntered about the stage. They seemed almost cold, anti-social, but their melodies and tones relatable and vulnerable. Even the lights that seemingly came from nowhere and everywhere, didn’t betray a hint of warmth. Shades of whites, dark purples and sometimes blue only brightened once to pink on “Reunion,” one of the night’s most inviting songs. Then again, during “VCR,” with its xylophone synth sounding like a child’s mobile, the lights felt suddenly cheerful, like a sunrise. This bit of positivity was a relief in a set that at times felt just a little too heavy.
As it came to the night’s closing song, The xx chose a subdued “Angels.” With a guitar note once every measure and the only beat a floor tom roll, you have to wonder what they’re holding back and if we would even love them as much if they let loose. And that thought still lingered as the lights flicked on, and for a moment the bright venue and sweaty, happy audience didn’t seem right.