The Great American Music Hall was flooded with an unusual excess of smoke and bass during the Phantogram and The xx show last night. It didn't seem to bother anyone though. The audience didn't have to change the tempo of their head nodding throughout both bands' sets. The monotony of the music combined with the low-energy performances would have been almost unbearable if there hadn't been a killer light show breaking the trance
The psyche pop duo, Phantogram, played their set through the haze of the smoke, often disappearing into it when the lighting changed. Keyboardist and singer Sarah Barthel has a voice reminiscent of early Portishead. Her stage presence drew the attention away from her partner, guitarist Josh Carter, who looked oblivious to everything but the guitar he was playing. Phantogram's set induced a lull in the audience that The xx's performance only enhanced. The hypnotizing electronic beats, with massive bass that reverberated through every nerve in the body was the overriding force of the evening that sadly; the show wasn't as effective as it was hyped up to be.
The way The xx sauntered out onto stage for their set was almost like a funeral procession. They were dressed in all black and fronted indifference on their pale faces. The drummer, Jamie Smith, sported a black t-shirt with Ronnie Spector's face, glorious beehive and all. Singer Romy Madley Croft picked up her sparkly black Gibson Les Paul and started playing a one-note lick that was overwhelmed by a gigantic bass pulse, almost flooring the crowd. The sheer force of the bass felt like a full, unrelenting, body massage. Thankfully, the apocalyptic bass wasn't pounding through the entire set.
The xx are minimalist musicians, and they have artfully crafted a lot of silence into their stage show for a haunting effect. When singer and bass player Oliver Sim went a capella for the beginning of one number, the audience went stone cold silent. His ghostly voice sailed through the crowd. The seriousness with which The xx played last night was professional and aloof. There was little said other than, "Thank you". The audience murmured along to most of the set. Despite the lethargic tempos and the fact that all their songs were in the same key, everyone lapped up the performance.
If The xx had one thing going for them, it was definitely their brilliant light show.