How impossible is it to describe a concert experience? I’ll never be able to write down exactly how I felt when I saw The xx live at Radio City Music Hall on September 24. I remember hearing The xx for the first time on the radio back in 2009 and feeling like the song was “nice.” And, invariably, when I play an xx song for people, trying to get them to understand, their first reaction is often well, that was pleasant. I don’t know enough about music to tell you why it’s so much more than pleasant, but I’d like to sit everyone down to listen to one of The xx’s songs on repeat until they hear what I hear.
The first thing I noticed about The xx was the combination of voices. Oliver Sim and Romy Madley-Croft’s voices are perfect together. Her voice is clear and his is gravely and as much as I love the songs they sing alone, their chemistry is really what makes it all work for me. Then there is the actual sound. It’s deceptively quiet music. It’s music that doesn’t really seem to take up a lot of room at first. And, then, I don’t know, suddenly it’s bigger. I enjoyed watching Jamie xx on stage as much as I did Madley-Croft and Sim and it really made me appreciate his role in the trio.
I enjoy their first album, but I really fell in love with The xx with Coexist. Last October, when I first got my new phone, it was the only album I bothered to download. Every subway ride was nothing but The xx. I guess, you get it, I really love The xx. This was going to be a great concert no matter what. How do you talk about music without sounding like I am a better fan than you. I listened to Coexist more times than you? How do you talk about music at all? Music is something of a mystery to me. I can play very basic stuff on the piano and read very basic music, but I always had a hard time hearing what my music teacher was trying to explain. When I am listening to music, I know what I like, but I rarely know why. That’s why this isn’t a review and why it could never be a review. This is just a love letter.
I guess if you twisted my arm and I had to give one criticism it would be the lights. They were intense. And while it produced amazing pictures like this one, it was also a bit blinding. But this is another credit to how amazing the show was: I stopped caring that I was blinded by a spotlight and just listened. And danced. And sang along. I was amazed at how they played with tempo and also fascinated by Sim’s weird, almost slow motion dance moves. When they came out for their encore and began playing “Intro” was the moment of the whole concert and the moment I didn’t want it to all end. I knew that, soon, we would all be leaving Radio City and I had no idea what I would do when it was over.
I feel a kind of sadness now that it is over. I will see The xx again (though not anytime soon, since they aren’t touring in the US anymore this year), but it will never again be this particular concert. Which seems so obvious now that I’ve typed it out, but I’d like to go back and experience it all again if only I could. There is something amazing about being in a huge room full of thousands of people who are scream-at-the-top-of-their-lungs in love with the same thing you are. Everything, from the ice cream we got before the concert to the halal truck after, to every single beat in between, was perfect. There are only so many times in life when the thing you are looking forward to far surpasses all of your expectations.