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The Boston summer heat as we have come to know it vanished on Tuesday night as fans lined up outside of the Wilbur Theater in the heart of downtown’s Theater District. Though temperatures were low and rain began to fall, everyone held on to get the best spots in the house for the XX. Murmurs of excitement flew for the English indie pop band’s sophomore album Coexist that is coming out next month – fans wondered if they would be lucky enough to get a preview.
As the doors opened, the crowd rushed inside, grabbed a brew, and secured their spots on the floor and seats in the balconies. Opening for the XX was Canadian electronic duo New Look. The duo, husband and wife Adam Pavao and Sarah Ruba, took the stage with a minimalist set up. Ruba on keytar and Pavao on keys and synthesizer. The future pop vibe of New Look didn’t jive too well with the crowd and it seemed like the two are still searching for their distinct sound. Their tracks were disjointed and seemed to drastically change from slow droned out synthesizers to dance beats without rhyme or reason.
After a brief intermission, the lights dimmed and the curtain lifted to reveal a giant clear acrylic X in front of a plain white back drop. Vocalist and guitarist Romy Madley-Croft, vocalist and bassist Oliver Sim, and percussionist Jamie Smith took the stage in a blue haze and to a roaring crowd. Without even introducing themselves the trio dove into “Islands” off of their self-titled debut album. The track started with the classic XX rhythm that listeners distinctly know by heart. From the get-go, Croft’s voice was pitch perfect and rich, filling up the room just as it did last time the band was in town at the Orpheum in 2010. The crowd silently swayed; entranced by the perfect balance of Croft and Sim’s voices.
As “Islands” came to a close, Sim jokingly whispered into his microphone, “and now, track 2.” As if the set list was a CD in itself, the band gave the audience a taste of Coexist that definitely maintained the aesthetic of the self-titled album. The set covered nearly the entirely of the debut album and a slowed down version of “Crystalised.” The pace deterred the audience from singing along but highlighted the vocals and made me feel like this was a taste of what rehearsals or the writing and recording process is like for the band.
The trio all seemed to be in high spirits, particularly Croft and Sim as they took turns strumming melodies and dancing back and forth with each other across the stage. Exchanging smiles and excited glances, Sim finally took a moment to speak to the audience about 40 minutes into the set. “I want to apologize for playing for so long but I wanted to thank you all for coming out tonight,” Sim said beaming ear to ear.
Mixed in between “VCR,” “Shelter,” “Basic Space” and other classics from the debut album were a couple additional new tracks. One of the new songs off of Coexist had a more up-tempo dance vibe. After hearing the lyrics to the new previewed tracks last night, I think it seems that the theme of Coexist is lost love, but we’ll wait until September to make that final call.
The set came to a close with a mass of applause with “Night Time” and the trio promptly took their bows and bid the audience good night. After a few minutes with no indication that the cheering would die down any time soon, Croft, Sim, and Smith came back on stage. Croft laughed and thanked Boston for a fantastic night and the band began again for an encore of “Intro.” The encore ended with “Stars” where a star-like projection appeared behind the band and flickered through the giant acrylic X. After finishing the song the audience began to roar again, Croft and Sim held hands to take a bow together under a spotlight. As the curtains closed, the audience reluctantly cleared the theater and began to plan amongst each other, “Did you know they are playing the House of Blues in October? We have to get our tickets.”