THE xx and GRIZZLY BEAR at Echo Beach, Thursday, June 6. Rating: NNNN
The xx and Grizzly Bear played Echo Beach in the kind of weather that makes a Torontonian groan ("I swear it was 28 C last week," you want to tell the bands). There was nothing beach-like about the affair, save for some pretty cool illuminated jellyfish lamps that hung behind Grizzly Bear. Thankfully, matching the sodden ground, both foreign acts seemed to have a soft spot for the city.
Grizzly Bear mercifully appeared onstage right on-time, playing a lot of material from 2012's Shields. They said they've played here as much as in New York (quite a feat for a Brooklyn act) and though they seemed just a little stiff - understandable considering the inclimate conditions - they warmed and loosened up with 2007 hit Knife and 2009's Two Weeks (which, try as I might, I cannot disassociate with the Volkswagen commercial).
It seemed cruel for dream-pop trio The xx to make us wait an hour between sets, but once they appeared - all dressed in super-stylish, Japanese-designer-looking black amid searching strobe lights - you got that they had to wait for pitch darkness. They have a ridiculously cool lights show, including a projected swirl that looks like a low psychedelic ceiling stretching out over the crowd.
After opening with a moody incarnation of Try and acknowledging the fan dedication profusely, they set the tone with Crystalised - which they teased out slowly as if they were trying to delay orgasm, making a tip-toed crowd hold their breath and wait for the "ahh ahh ahh"s of the chorus.
Jamie xx quietly played percussionist in the back, making the magic happen via turntables and instruments - a lot of the blurry pop sheen comes from him. It was great when he broke it down on steel drums, furthering the non-beach beach vibe. Frontman Oliver Sim induced rather startling Beatle-mania screams at various times - and his arched, claw-like bass plucking is something to behold. But the heart of the band seemed to emanate through Romy Madley Croft's guitar. Croft was fun to watch - you could see her cheeks trying to suppress a smile when the crowd was demonstrably digging the xx vibe. Best was when Croft and Sim would come together mid-stage, playing their instruments at each other like a choreographed bird-mating ritual, moving toward and away from one another in sync with the music.
Beach weather? No. But by the time they encored with Angels, that place was hot.