SAN FRANCISCO — London electronic trio The xx began its U.S. tour Saturday ( a show at Coachella the previous night notwithstanding) with the first of three shows at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium—expecting to draw around 25,000 of fans during the run—using a beautifully lit production and rotating, two-sided mirrors that reached from the stage floor all the way to the ceiling.
The xx opened with “Say Something Loving,” off new album I See You. Lush guitars filled the room and Romy Madley Croft’s vocals settled over the melody. The band then immediately went into “Crystalised,” off its self-titled debut, which highlighted the prominent bass lines of Oliver Sim. Croft and Sim were made to harmonize together, and this was clearly evident on “I Dare You,” a perfect indie pop song. The two faced each other while they played guitars and the mirrors turned inward.
Producer-programmer Jamie Smith, better known as Jamie xx, had his own moments to shine, beginning on “Lips.” He began by building some impressive beats and then adding tropical rhythms that gave the song a breezy feeling. The xx covered his track “Loud Places,” which transformed the large auditorium into a club and the concertgoers into excited dancers. The mirrors turned in all directions with another one lowering from the rafters creating an illusion of an endless, futuristic expanse.
This band has grown leaps and bounds since its Bay Area introduction as openers for various other acts. Smith, Croft and Sim have turned their introverted minimalist sound outward. Their songs have become bigger and Croft’s vocals now soar rather than blending into the atmosphere.
Other show highlights included the guitar-driven “Sunset,” with its dueling and harmonizing vocals, “VCR,” which was reminiscent of David Bowie’s “Heroes,” the groovy, soulful “Dangerous,” which Sim dedicated to the singles in the audience, and Croft’s solo, raw “Performance.” “If I put on a disguise, will you think everything’s alright?/ If I scream at the top of my lungs, will you hear what I don’t say?” Croft sang during the latter.
The trio’s 19-song set was vulnerable and authentic, a large draw for many who came and left happy.
Fellow Londoner Sampha opened the show supporting his newly released album, Process, backed by a drummer, keyboardist and another percussionist on myth pads. The songs varied and ranged from sultry electronica with deep bass to percussion-led tracks with Caribbean and Latin flourishes.
Sampha preformed the gorgeous “Too Much” solo with nothing but his haunting vocals and a piano. The song, which has been sampled by Drake, like his other material, is destined for film scores.