The xx gathers crowd for sold out show despite storms

by Maeve Callahan – [email protected] – Staff Writer

Photo by Auburn Petty – Multimedia & Design Editor.

Severe thunderstorms flooded the Asheville area last Wednesday, keeping many people inside their homes – except for around one thousand people who were determined enough to put on their rain jackets and head downtown to The Orange Peel to watch The xx perform.
“I’ve never seen them perform live before,” said Stephanie Henschel, 30-year-old Asheville resident. “It’s not at all what I was expecting, but I really liked it.”
Henschel anticipated the moody, whispering lyrics accompanied with minimalistic guitar lines that made a name for the London-based trio with their self-titled debut album xx, released in 2009. Instead, Henschel and the rest of the crowd discovered The xx’s live performance changed from chilling goth into a bass bumping remix resembling rave music.
The three band members, Oliver Sim on bass guitar and vocals, Romy Madley-Croft on lead guitar and vocals and Jamie Smith in charge of beats, began writing their first album while attending the Eliot School at 16-years-old. They were on tour two years later and won the Barclay Mercury Prize, a prestigious music award in the United Kingdom, for best album of the year in 2010.
The unexpected style of the band’s live performance received mixed feelings from fans on Wednesday.  Tessa Everton, who drove more than two hours to see the show, wormed her way out of the crowd of dancing people halfway through the set.
“It’s alright, I guess. Don’t get me wrong, I love their recorded stuff. But all the rave beats, that’s just not my style,” Everton said.
Not everyone shared Everton’s opinion about the performance, which incorporated visual effects with smoke machines, light shows and background graphics that danced along with the thumping bass. Tim Nelson, a self-described sleep-deprived culinary student at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, danced with abandon in the sea of people. With his demanding schedule leaving little time for leisure, Nelson took full advantage of the chance leaving his stresses behind and get swept away by The xx.
The set list included almost every song from xx and six additional songs from their second album, Coexist, released in late 2011. Even though the songs were distinctly different from the recorded versions, the trio themselves stayed true to their gothic style. All were dressed from head to toe in black and wore facial expressions of detached sorrow.
While the crowd danced aggressively with the occasional fist-pump, the band members moved around the stage with slow, exaggerated steps in an almost trancelike state.
Sim sang his parts of each song as if it took all of his energy to let the words escape his lips.
In a self-produced YouTube documentary, Croft talks about the band members’ introverted nature and how live shows were something each had to learn to love. The shyness of the band becomes noticeable when only Sim addressed the room of fans, saying not much beyond, “Thank you.”
The xx left the stage Wednesday night but were enticed back by the explosion of clapping, whistling, screaming and stomping from the audience demanding an encore. Once back on stage, they ironically played their popular instrumental song “Intro,” then proceeded with one more song from each of their two albums.
“Thanks again, Asheville, you’ve been great,” Sim said.