Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The XX Romances Stage Ae Crowd with Haunting Grooves

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The XX Romances Stage Ae Crowd with Haunting Grooves

Article excerpt

Quiet intimacy and introspection have been the hallmarks of The xx since the British band debuted back in 2009 with the Mercury-prize winning beauty "xx."

The question for Tuesday was how would it work in a crowded outdoor amphitheater on a warm, summery night?

Quite lovely, actually, seeing as how The xx are like the U2 of quiet intimacy and introspection.

The evening at Stage AE began with an 8 p.m. set from Sampha, the British singer-songwriter-producer who has made a name via collaborations with Drake and Kanye, not a mention an xx remix of "Basic Space." Working keys and electronics, and backed by a rhythm section, Sampha, who draws comparisons to Frank Ocean, has an aching tenor that he keeps in an upper register. One of the best moments came when he stripped away the beats and laid his emotions bare on "(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano." Just when it was wearing thin (or maybe a little after), he put an exclamation point on the set with the anxiety-ridden rush of "Blood on Me."

At 9:30, the lights dimmed for the headliner and stayed that way as crew members ran around with some urgency and the crowd grew increasingly restless. Actually, that's not true ? xx fans are the chillest of them all! A fat cord delivered to the soundboard did the trick and The xx arrived around 9:50, with an 11 p.m. curfew looming.

With the first pulsing notes of "Say Something Loving," guitarist Romy Madley Croft and bassist Oliver Sim, at opposite ends of the stage, began the half-whispered exchanges of anguished romance that run through virtually every song.

Despite this being the perfect late-night, wine-sipping (or weed-smoking) earbud music, it plays surprisingly well live. Jamie Smith, on a riser in the middle sporting a black Pirates shirt, kept the keyboards, drums and rhythm tracks bubbling and kicking, while the stars up front kept the sexual tension thick (they're not a thing, by the way, as she recently became engaged to artist Hannah Marshall).

She's probably not being profiled in guitar magazines, but Ms. Croft makes every note count with a clean tone and muscular riffs and patterns drawn from The Cure, Joy Division and, in the case of "Infinity," twangy Chris Isaak. …

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