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The xx stellar in Seattle headlining debut
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The xx stellar in Seattle headlining debut

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

The xx
April 12
The Showbox SoDo


Despite a 10:35 p.m. start - nearly an hour after their announced set time - The xx gave a sold-out crowd at The Showbox SoDo what it had anticipated: a concert filled with many moments of brilliance and not a single disappointment.

The shadows of this hotly pursued London trio appeared behind a massive white curtain, and the opening chords of "Intro" were illuminated by synchronized flashes of duo lead singers Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim. The dramatic instrumental number has been used in an AT&T commercial featuring local Olympic athlete Apolo Anton Ohno.

Surprisingly bold, The xx lunged into "Crystalised" for the next entry on their set list. Newer artists, even established ones, tend to save their most-recognized material for the latter part of the show, but not these guys - if anything, it proved how ahead of the curve they really are by unloading a big hit in the first five minutes of the performance, which was backed beautifully by magenta lighting.

Croft and Sim, who cleverly overlap their vocals on various tracks, were flawless. I found myself moving my head from singer to singer as if I were watching an intense tennis match. Croft's husky figure, butch haircut, and robust pipes recalled an early Alison Moyet, yet her vocals are silkier and a bit more sultry. Sim, on the other hand, sounds like a jazz veteran when he sings on his own - believe it or not - like an un-polished, swagger-less Michael Buble.

"Islands" was layered with fine guitar work, mostly by Croft, and spontaneous keyboard plunks from percussionist Jamie Smith. Opting for a drum machine instead of a traditional drum set, Smith provided a soft, uplifting electronic backbone to what otherwise could've been a set of overly melancholy tunes.

"Today is a very special day," said Sim enthusiastically, with a little shyness. "Today is our first-ever headlining show in Seattle. It's very different from Neumos." Indeed, The xx was the star attraction on Monday night, as a full house of eager fans got an early look at a musical act skyrocketing to success.

Live renditions of "Infinity" and "Shelter" matched the sleek-meets-broody versions found on The xx's stunning debut of last year, listed on SGN's Top Ten Albums/CDs of 2009. A cover of Kyra's "Do You Mind" was snuck in midway into the group's hour-long appearance, though routinely performed re-dos of hits by Aaliyah and Ciara were absent on this night.

The concert's pinnacle was a lush run-through of "Basic Space," the threesome's latest released single in the U.S. - its whispery vocals, near-lazy guitars and light touches of bass and drums peeled away the sad, sensual fusion of The xx's music, sometimes described as a cloudier Cure. Just before the band's one-song encore, Sim told the audience, "Say hi to mum and dad!" and then snapped a photo of everyone smiling widely. A tantalizing version of "Stars," complete with a glittery silver curtain at the back of the stage, finished an impressive performance by these ambitious youngsters.

L.A.-based digital whiz Nasaj Thing offered an interesting, robotic collage of sounds during his brief pre-show set. But unfortunately, Swedish newbie jj struck out with a very flat, amateur performance - her Afro rhythm-pop hybrid sounded like a happy hour karaoke rendition of The Lion King.

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