English indie rock band The xx amazed the City of Angels with its Coexist tour on Sunday. Thousands of excited fans crowded into the Hollywood Bowl to experience the staggering grace that the duo brought to their performance.
It might be a little absurd to call The xx one of the defining bands of our age, but, then again, Radiohead and Nirvana also had to start somewhere. The past decade has been a re-examination for the music industry — shifting away from the robotic performances, almost too-perfect staging and excess stress to haphazard and stray vocals and unwavering emotional honesty.
For The xx, this revolution in music has merely emphasized the band’s personality in its performances, appearing smooth and stylish to the touch.
Instead of refining its style to match that of other past and current indie bands, The xx has brought a lightness to the indie genre. The band shares its lyrics on social media with its fans, but still manages to retain a wondrous mystique that could baffle any Vampire Weekend or Two Door Cinema Club fan.
And even though honesty might be one of The xx’s most enticing qualities, the listener also can’t overlook its artistry. The band’s passion for music was on display Sunday, not only in its vocals, but also in the band’s ability to sing for a crowd of thousands in an outdoor venue. The performance served to reinforce that The xx is clearly a band of never-aging high school guitarists and fervent vocalists.
The songs themselves are miniature examples of The xx’s carefully crafted musical style. The band paired its best hits, “Sunset” and “Angel,” with hypnotic sounds from an electronic piano. Bass guitarist Oliver Sim played with confidence, and both Romy Madley Croft and Sim often sang into the same microphone, feeding off the group dynamic.
Jamie Smith, a.k.a. Jamie xx, ran the beats with a striking intensity. Jamie xx not only stunned the crowd with her vocals, but with a genuine and endearing vulnerability. She and her bandmates would often tell the crowd how thankful they were to be playing at the Hollywood Bowl. The band’s most popular hits such as “VCR” and “Fiction” kept their show alive, reviving the energy of the performance as the diverse crowd bobbed their heads and swayed to the sounds of the choruses.
As far as special effects, The xx took a page out of today’s electronic music scene and incorporated a laser show into their performance. It wasn’t the kind of laser show that one would expect at a typical rave. It was a mellow, relaxed show to sit back and enjoy.
Clad in black, the band demonstrated its loyalty to the indie rock genre by keeping their outfits simple yet sophisticated, with touches of European fashion in their black leather jackets and urban tanks and tees.
Special mention must go to Jamie xx, whose vigor for presentation could not be trivialized, and who crafted the band’s songs to match the open-air venue of the Hollywood Bowl. The stadium meshed perfectly with the band’s desire to showcase talent. Miraculously effortless, elaborately restrained and sleekly idiosyncratic — The xx could not have picked a more appropriate venue for its performance.
The band’s newest album, Coexist, features a mix of relaxed vibes and cool tones that you would imagine listening to in a high-end bar or upscale lounge in New York City. For this very reason, many fans were concerned about how such calm vocals would sound in a stadium known for its resonance and astonishing energy level. A venue with the pedigree of the Hollywood Bowl is meant for the Maroon 5s and Lady Gagas of the world. Regardless, The xx once again left the crowd shocked by its stunning talent and ability to rise above what is expected.
After The xx completes a six-date tour of North America that started on Sept. 20, the band will head to South America for dates in Bogota, Colombia and Santiago, Chile.
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