Thursday, April 22nd, 2010
One Life Stand
Hot Chip and The xx at the Kool Haus in Toronto
Frank YangIt doesn’t seem so long ago – say, last August – that everyone wanted to know when those responsible for the mope-out/make-out soundtrack of 2009 – The xx – were going to make it to Toronto. They made that long-awaited debut in December in support of Friendly Fires but before that show had even passed, they’d booked a return engagement for this past Tuesday at the Kool Haus supporting Hot Chip and then not long after that announcement, a third local show was slated for earlier this month with jj; talk about feast or famine. Of the two April performances, I opted to hit up the later one – yes, it meant passing up their first headlining slot, but I was much keener to see Hot Chip than jj, particularly after hearing how lacklustre their live sets were at SxSW.
There were definitely parallels between this show and the one in December; both found The xx’s significant buzz drowned out by that of the more established headliners and thus, still with significant swathes of the audience to win over. Working against them was the fact that the Hot Chip fans were clearly here for a party and The xx’s mood music had some trouble getting their attention, at least those standing in my vicinity. And it’s too bad that they found talking about their rec softball leagues more stimulating than what was coming off the stage, because in a short amount of time, The xx have become a much more compelling live act.
They brought none of the fancy stage dressings I’d heard about from their headlining show – even the glowing “X” DJ booth had apparently been traded in for a non-luminous model – but the polish and confidence of their relentless touring schedule was clear. In the past, I’ve defended the band against complaints that their live show was boring by asking what those naysayers would have them do – their stage presence might be low-key but it suits the atmosphere of their music perfectly – but even I was pleased to see that they had become just a little bit more visually compelling. Mostly that was bassist Oliver Sims, who seemed to now be letting the music do with him what it would, and that was making him swing pendulously around the stage while laying down the low end. It was a little thing, but quite noticeable. Musically, they also mixed things up a bit, with new and unexpected breakdowns in “Crystal” and “Basic Space”; for any other band, you’d say they were jamming things out a bit, but The xx are pretty much the antithesis of a jamming band – their aesthetic requires everything be meticulously considered and arranged, so while I’d have been perfectly happy hearing XX reproduced, their adding in something new was pleasantly surprising. And now I’d like them to stop touring – finally – and go write a new record.
Leading up to this show, I’d heard more than a few people comment on how Hot Chip were a great live band, a sentiment I found this somewhat odd considering that I’d seen them at Lollapalooza 2006 and, while I apparently enjoyed their set, the impression I’ve carried with me from that set was that they were kind of… dry in a live setting. Well, apparently it’s not fair to judge a band based on a mid-day, festival side-stage set because here, in front of a sold-out, ready to go audience of their own fans, they were fantastic. Now, I’ve only been peripherally acquainted with Hot Chip’s works until their latest, the comparatively sedate One Life Stand, but I’d always thought of them as a cerebral electro-pop band that you could also dance to if so inclined, but as it turns out they’re also a dancey electro-pop band that you can sit and wrap your head around, and on this night, it was the dancing that ruled.
Even though Toronto has a reputation as a town that likes to stand around at shows – arm-crossing optional – I’ve seen folks dance before. Never, however, quite like at this show. Most of the masses engaged in the bouncing and arm-waving that tends to be all once can get away with in big crowds, but out on the periphery there were people taking advantage of the open space to dance and dance elaborately, and not to be seen but just to let the music move them. And the dance party wasn’t just happening in the audience; on stage and despite being largely tethered to their keyboards and percussion setups, the London six-piece was in a celebratory mood and themselves dancing up a storm, helped along by the fact it was lead singer Alexis Taylor’s 30th birthday. Over the 80-minute set, they served up much of One Life Stand and most of the hits of their earlier records – thus making it a set for which I was actually able to recognize the bulk of the material – and did so with tremendous energy and big smiles, to boot. Hot Chip? Great live band.
Exclaim and Panic Manual also have reviews of the show. The xx have just released a new video for “Islands” and NPR will be webcasting both Hot Chip and The xx’s sets from Washington D.C. on April 24.
Photos: Hot Chip, The xx @ The Kool Haus – April 20, 2010
MP3: The xx – “Basic Space”
Video: Hot Chip – “I Feel Better”
Video: Hot Chip – “One Life Stand”
Video: Hot Chip – “One Pure Thought”
Video: Hot Chip – “Ready For The Floor”
Video: Hot Chip – “The Warning”
Video: Hot Chip – “Over And Over”
Video: Hot Chip – “Colours”
Video: Hot Chip – “And I Was A Boy From School”
Video: Hot Chip – “Playboy”
Video: The xx – “Islands”
Video: The xx – “Basic Space”
Video: The xx – “Crystalised”
MySpace: Hot Chip
MySpace: The xx
The Dallas Observer talks to Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit, whom after almost a week of volcano-induced delays are now on a plane and en route to salvage their North American tour, meaning their May 4 show at the Opera House is a go.
Barring any more Icelandic ash spewing, Kate Nash will also make it over here in time to begin her North American tour in support of My Best Friend Is You at the Mod Club next Monday night. BBC, Seattle Post-Intelligencier and Spinner all talk to Nash about her sophomore effort.
Oh, and I’ve started one of those Formspring things. Ask me questions! Or, y’know, don’t. S’cool.