It's the rare indie band indeed that inspires fans into frenzied concert ticket purchases. Selling out more than a month before their gig, the much-lauded British electronica trio The xx promised the perfect balance of dance, sex, synths, and familiarity that guaranteed a packed venue, even in Tampa's notably fickle market. Before the show, tickets were listed online at literally 600% of face value, yet still hordes of people crowded the sidewalk for blocks around The Ritz Ybor, begging for a way to get inside. [Text by Deborah, photos by Drunkcameraguy.com.]
Here's a taste of what most of you missed:
Three silhouettes appear onstage amid hazy lighting as the first soft notes of "Angels" — the opening song off the band's second release — begin. The gentle intones of vocalist Romy Madley-Croft, pitch perfect and nearly identical to studio recordings, drift across the packed room. There is a subtlety and understated sense of promise that the evening will deliver well beyond the restraint shown here.
Unfortunately, much like that aforementioned second release, Coexist, what was overtly suggested is never really delivered. Instead, The xx offers Tampa a spectacular, well-produced cock tease.
When co-vocalist Oliver Sim begins prowling across the stage to the next song, "Heart Skipped a Beat," my hopes rise that tracks off their debut would provide the sexier, slinkier feeling that inexplicably drove all these hipsters to hit the sheets. Wrapping the microphone cord around himself sensually, curling his back, and preening as Madley-Croft begins contributing to the song's duet — which should be a sensual give and take — there is a feeling the two are completely disconnected from each other.
He wants it more, she wants it less, or vice versa. Sexual frustration affects almost every couple. So how do they get past it to a resolution?
With The xx, they never do, and while this might be a somewhat expected outcome since both vocalists are gay and there's no real sexual chemistry between the two, there was still some expectation of electricity from their live performance. After all, on the black-to-white scale of sexuality, this seemed like the ideal opportunity for gray.
The great disappointment of the evening was Jamie xx, the band's producer and DJ. He's become something of a celebrity independently from the band, brilliantly remixing everyone else's releases for the last few years. Perhaps this is why Coexist was such a disappointment; allegedly influenced by "club music," it held so much promise. The release begged to be remixed from the first listen, leaving a huge expectation that Jamie xx would bring something spectacular to a live show; he's certainly capable of it. Instead, a packed room was left standing still, barely swaying, when they could have, should have, been dancing their asses off in an orgiastic cluster of bodies.
Steel drum pad solos for "Reunion," and even a focused moment of attention on Jamie during "Sunset" provided only awkward clapping. There were flashes of increased tempo, where it seemed several songs might explode into crescendos, but they eventually just fizzled out. And prematurely.
Not that there weren't any great moments. Returning to the stage for the encore with "Intro," the first song from their debut, we were all reminded that the track manages to be one of the most unforgettable album openers of the last few years. Lights flashed wildly as the instrumentals unfolded, showing there was still hope, some hope, that the evening might end in reckless abandon.
But (to continue using the sexual terminology the band consistently evokes) the performance was downright flaccid. At one point during the encore, the guy next to us even offered to ask Sim if he needed a fluffer. For a band that has become the de-facto sex soundtrack for indie kids across the globe, the pronounced asexuality that pervaded their set left fans frustrated and wandering into the night, still eager to get it on. Those of you who stayed home likely enjoyed more action than we all did at the show.
Heart Skipped a Beat