all photos: Shauna Alexander
When London’s The xx graced the 9:30 Club stage Tuesday night, the came out with not a bang, but with a whimper. And a major one at that. Everything that made their self-titled debut great seemed lost in the smoke machines and over-compensating light show. The intimate, hushed, sexual tones from Romy Madley and Oliver Sim make for a great listen on your stereo, but the fall short when those minimal sounds are pumped through a large public address system.
This isn’t a plea for the band to stop playing large venues, and they probably won’t, but that loss of intimacy makes for one boring show. It’s something to expect to a certain extent with such a minimalist outfit like The xx, but a little stage presence wouldn’t hurt. Bassist Oliver Sim tried his hardest, but the cold stare and occasional thank you really don’t do the trick.
Sadly, the highlights of the show didn’t come off the group’s self-titled release. The covers of Robin S.’ “Show Me Love” and Womack & Womack’s “Teardrops” were approved upon with electronic back drop. The audience ate up the standards from their 2009 LP — “VCR”, “Intro”, “Crystalised” and “Heart Skipped A Beat” — but I left the venue wanting to just listen to the record at home than spend a night out watching the band play.
Los Angeles’ Warpaint and Zola Jesus could have easily headlined the bill and I don’t think it would have mattered. The majority of the audience came to see The xx, but you missed out on two great, but equally different acts if you came late. Warpaint, an all-female quintet, played 45 minutes of blistering, swirling post-punk. Drummer Stella Mozgawa easily stole the show from the rest of the band with her drums sticks reducing her set to ashes. The set started out a little rough, but from playing single “Undertow” on, the band commanded attention the rest of the set. Most of the songs played on Tuesday night will be found on their upcoming release The Fool, which comes out October 26 on Rough Trade. And if their record is anything like their live show, we’ll be in for a treat.
Zola Jesus — real name Nika Rosa Danilova — came backed with a goth-synth outfit that started out sluggish and a little shy. hrouded in a black cloak for the first number, Danilova ditched the hood, revealing her shocked white hair, as she marched around on stage. But as Danilova warmed up to the crowd, the band found their groove and delivered 45 minutes of goth-inspired new wave that’s meant to be played to a lot of people and loud. Rock solid.