LIVE REVIEW: The xx w/ Phantogram @ Great American Music Hall, 6/1/2010
Tuesday nightÂ was an exciting one at the Great American Music Hall. Not only did two great bands rock the place, but it was the first night of the first ever headlining tour for The xx. The excitement was palpable as the crowd packed into the theater. The place filled with wall to wall smoke as Phantogram took the stage. The sound was as thick as the fog billowing offstage creating a literal bog of sound. Within the first few notes it was obvious that this was a different Phantogram than we were used to. The duo stepped up their game for the first night of their tour with The xx and got things started off right with a set of spacey, bass thumping, psych rock. I’ve never considered Phantogram a particularly aggressive band nor would I have classified them as an electronics heavy duo, but that changed after they blasted the crowd with gut busting bass and enough keyboard and effects to give birth to a dancing robot. Their sound was heavy, droning, and aggressive yet there was a playfulness to it that somehow made the audience want to dance. Â Keyboardist Sarah Barthel stole the show with her crazy electronics, headbanging, and occasional screams into the microphone. The duo’s vocals and to some extent even the guitar took backseat to wild noise and beats. It was almost like a Phantogram remix album performed live.
The smoke had not yet settled when The xx emerged from backstage, creating silhouettes of the group as they filed on stage like a parade of ghosts. Singer/guitarist Romy Madley Croft began playing a single note as Oliver Sim built a heavy bass line around it, andÂ Jamie SmithÂ loomed in the shadows backing them up with beats and ambient sound. This was essentially the formula for each song allowing the sound to swell and engulf the crowd. The minimalist, metronome music and monotone vocals instantly put the audience in a trance, swaying and bobbing to the music as if they were stocks of seaweed being pushed and pulled by the tide. People could have actually fallen asleep if it weren’t for the intense light show that turned people’s shoegazing into dancing. The colorful, strobing light extravaganza was definitely the highlight of the show. The xx has an amazing and unique sound, but after standing in a hot room listening to them play for a while, all the songs start to sound the same and the show gets a bit tedious. The kaleidoscopic lights and seizure inducing strobes, however, turned each song into a new experience breaking up some of the monotony of the performance.
The band played straight through their debut album with little more than a quite “thanks” in between songs. Despite the lack of interaction, you could tell that the band was feeling good about kicking off their first headlining tour and who wouldn’t after selling out the first two nights at the Great American Music Hall. That’s not an easy thing to do, especially for a band that only has one album released late last year.
For more photos from the show, check out our Owl Mag Flickr page.