The xx Pimps out Its Production at the Fox Theater

Categories: Last Night
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Joseph Schell
The xx
Warpaint
Zola Jesus 
September 23, 2010
@ The Fox Theater 

Better than: Winning a raffle at a fundraiser, knowing full well that you're essentially stealing from those children. 

It's always couples night when pillow rockers the xx are in town, which only meant one thing Thursday night at the Fox Theater in Oakland -- with all these X and Y chromosomes in here, somebody here gon' Facebook poke. And with all these previous Bay Area pit stops -- you might recall this one, or this one -- perhaps these will soon be the faces of the Mission.

This go-around is doubling as a victory lap for the Brit trio, fresh off news of its fancy Mercury Prize and the handsome ransom attached, which is somewhere in the ballpark of $31,000 (somehow they resisted the call of the mystery box).

What to do with $31,000? What to do... 

How 'bout hiring another bus to bring all your friends on tour and amping up the production value a bit? Oh, and can we get loverboy bassist Oliver Sim some dance lessons? Great.
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Joseph Schell
The band has hinted that this tour -- its last until the next album surfaces -- might include some re-imaginations of some of its bedroom jams. That came true on songs such as "Infinity," with a fleshed-out and flexed addendum, and the appropriate/obvious opener "Intro," which was spiced with added instrumental drama and a dropped curtain. But for the most part the xx strayed little from the album in question, flaunting a live set that is by now a polished studio adaptation.

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Joseph Schell
The xx is all about creating atmosphere -- the band is a smoke machine's dream collaborator, really. It's a sound that works best in the dark, like You Forgot it in People-era Broken Social Scene, and the push/pull, male/female foilism of smart emo-ites Stars. It's all terribly sexy. The Fox crowd was dizzy with lust when the band beckoned for a sing-along moment near the end of its album-long set, and a vocal minority of fans got their shriek on at any opportunity. Is this what happens when a band wins a prize? Or maybe the voice of guitarist/vocalist Romy Madley Croft is that damn sultry. But for my money, give me the skip-to-my-lou beats and synth/steroid bass of producer Jamie Smith, at least when Croft and Sim aren't soliloquizing, which isn't often.

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Joseph Schell
Openers Warpaint, an all-female quartet from L.A., had a difficult time filling out the Fox Theater acoustics and the open stage. We listened hard and found layers and echoing texture in guitars and altering vocal arrangements, and there's even hints of the xx and Grizzly Bear somewhere in there. A more assured stage presence and a freewheeler on the volume dial would go a long way.

The battle of the buzz went to Zola Jesus, who had the good fortune to support Fever Ray on a 2009 tour, and the good tact to get intimate with the Fox crowd on a stage dive. Her sound smacks of the experimental gusto of Fever Ray and The Knife, a product of composing rather than songwriting. Somebody please give her a prize and see what she can do with some capital. 

Critic's Notebook:

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Joseph Schell
Personal bias: Ms. Croft is the doppelganger of one of my close childhood friends. We saw the xx at Coachella together, and I still get chills thinking about it. 

The crowd: Was Justin Bieber hiding onstage or something? 

Overheard in the crowd: "I'm stealing your idea on this and I'm going to make millions." 

Setlist: 
Intro 
Crystalised
Heart Skipped a Beat
Basic Space
Fantasy
Shelter
Teardrops
VCR
Islands
Night Time
Infinity
--- 
Stars

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