Friday, December 11, 2009
Unfairly or not, there's that uncontrollable part of me that shies away from listening to or writing about quote/unquote 'buzzbands'. If I hear too much hype before I actually hear any of the music, well, I may not ever hear it. Silly, I know, but hey... there's just so much other stuff to listen to. Does it mean I miss out on things I might love? Sure. Do I feel sheepish if I eventually connect with one of them? Yeah, it happens. But not a whole lot.
It almost happened with Londoners The XX, but I got lucky. Until a couple months ago I'd heard and read their name all over before I heard single song. Hell, I think I knew more about their lineup change than what they sounded like at some point. But one late-Autumn workday I was streaming some internet radio and heard a song that truly moved me. Not right away - it worked its way into my brain as it played, so I barely had time to check the band name before it faded out - and yes, it was The XX. Over-exposure aversion overcome, and all it took was a single track, their "Basic Space". One album purchase and three full listens later, I knew that song was no fluke. I loved it all, I love this band.
Enough to wait nearly two hours in the early-December Boston cold last Friday to get into their very first area performance, an in-store at the Newbury Street location of Newbury Comics. 200 wrist-banded souls braved the line, and I'd guess maybe 50 of us could actually see the band down the long rows inside the store. But we could all hear it, and that's what mattered. Six songs and 25 minutes later, back out into the cold we went. Worth it? So completely worth it.
The in-store set was a precursor to that night's sold-out show at the Paradise, opening for Friendly Fires. The band's second trip to Boston is already booked at the same venue on April 2nd - another (hopefully warmer) Friday night, and likely another sell-out - when they graduate from openers to headliners. Opening duties will be handled by Sweden's jj (making their first U.S. appearances), and tickets can be had right here or at the Paradise box office to save on fees.
Here's the audio from last Friday's intimate in-store, and some thoughts to follow...
Live at Newbury Comics, Newbury St.
in Boston, MA
on Friday evening, December 4th, 2009
02. Basic Space
05. Night Time / Infinity
Yes, despite losing a member, the band seems to have picked up two off-duty teen heartthrobs, although it was unclear what their tasks entailed beyond brooding (Pattinson was clearly not hired to help offset the band's collective paleness quotient). And about that transformation from quartet to trio? To my ears, it really doesn't seem to have impacted the band sonically. Yes, there were moments where guitarist Romy or bassist Oliver had to lean over to Jamie's electronics table and push a trigger or two, but if anything it added to the human element of the performance (which also deserves a comment - the fact that Jamie reproduces the beats by hand, rather than relying on loops or backing tracks, really adds a lot to their live experience). What I love about them - the spare, almost fragile webs they hang their songs on - it's still there, and maybe moreso. If they were your typical layered, shoegazey band, losing a member would be worrisome, but the XX? No worries whatsoever.
For the most part, the 6 songs closely resembled their album counterparts, though the joining of "Night Time" to "Infinity" was a real treat (and hey, is it just me, or is there a not-so-subtle homage to Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy" in that transitional guitar-line? And while we're at it, yes, the "VCR" verse = Bowie's "Heroes"), and the live version of "Islands" is made even more sparse by withholding the almost-danceable beat that kicks off the album version until the later half of the song.
For those who like to look as well as listen, YouTube user (& 'Nac reader, heya Jane) JaneInMa recorded the whole set from the front on video.
the fine print... If anyone has an issue with these live Mp3s being made available, just let me know (my contact info is in the 'nac faq). Live sets recorded with a Sony ECM-719 mic and a Sony MZ-RH10 minidisc, converted to .wav, edited, and shared as 256kbps Mp3s. Files are made available for a limited time, and are not reposted once removed.
live in cambridge, ma
on november 14th, 2008
previously: joy formidable - boston 2011
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