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- Posted on Apr 1st 2010 10:00AM by Kenneth Partridge
"This is how we write a lot of our songs, just a bass and guitar," bassist and co-lead singer Oliver Sim said at the top of the set, taking the stage alongside guitarist and female duet partner Romy Madley Croft, a friend since childhood. "So, fingers crossed."
Due to join Smith for a full-band concert later Wednesday evening at Webster Hall, a mile or two north of Spin's posh SoHo digs, Sim and Croft proved in 30 minutes why they're the lifeblood of the XX, sighing and strumming their way through five tunes from their instantly classic self-titled 2009 debut.
As the fresh-faced, 20-something Londoners launched into the opening 'Crystalised,' the crowd stood mesmerized, limiting movement to the hoisting, tilting and lowering of complementary beers. Dressed in head-to-toe black, Sim and Croft built on the mood of the song's recorded version, making it sound even more like a conversation between two confused lovers. During the final bars, they simultaneously sang different lines, crossing words as even the most well-intentioned people often do.
Although 'Islands,' next up in the set, benefits on record from Smith's subtle electronic pulse, the song worked perfectly well -- perhaps even better -- with just Sim's simple bass line, Croft's brittle guitar and the understated drama of the pair's back-and-forth vocals. 'Shelter,' the third selection, a minimalist composition even by XX standards, featured a gorgeous lead by Croft, an economical player who wrings maximum emotion from every note.
On 'VCR,' the quintessential hush-hush XX jam, the two singers -- platonic, amazingly enough -- mixed tenderness with desperation, selling the idea they'd be content spending the rest of their lives in each other's company, holding hands and adjusting the tracking on their antiquated analog video player.
The closer, 'Infinity,' found Croft in full-on Chris Isaak 'Wicked Game' mode, letting the reverb ring on haunting blue rockabilly chords. When it was over, she and Sim smiled politely and thanked Spin and fellow sponsor Vans, pleased to have given a half-hour of heart and soul and yet maintained an air of mystery.