Although they began with “Loveless,” a great choice as an opener because of its huge, passionate hook and grand explosion of melodies, X Ambassadors couldn’t have been more loving towards South Florida Thursday night. The quartet’s performance at Revolution Live was essentially a series of cheerful high-fives followed by a big ol’ bear hug.
X Ambassadors were joined by a pair of alternative outfits, Foreign Air and The Moth & The Flame, on a summer soaked evening. The four-piece hit the stage around 9:30 and hit hard. After “Loveless,” they launched into “Hang On,” one long metaphor about not giving up based around Indiana Jones falling into a snake pit. It’s a punchy number that had the crowd dancing as lead singer Sam Harris crooned as earnestly as any R&B lady-killer. From early on it was apparent that despite being dressed in all black, they were going to explore the entire color spectrum of emotion and music.
The immensely popular “Unsteady,” which has become an even bigger hit since landing a prominent spot on the Me Before You film soundtrack, elicited several singalongs, encouraged by Harris pointing the mic at the crowd. Although it did sound rather lovely, it paled in comparison to Harris and his exquisite voice. X Ambassadors fall under the alt-indie rock category, but Harris has the vocal chops and inner groove of a 60s Motown soul singer.
While it was raining outside, the crowd managed to stay dry inside, with the possible exception of a few tears being shed thanks to “Unsteady.” The follow-up, “Low Life,” didn’t let up with the emotional barrage, the anthemic, but introspective track washing over the audience with a celebratory melancholy.
One particular standout was “Gorgeous,” where Harris scaled a mountain of high notes with ease; in fact, the entire band was on point, with Harris also pitching in on a few sax solos. X Ambassadors are the type of band in concert that, eyes-closed, are indistinguishable from their recorded counterparts. Falling somewhere between the likes of Maroon 5 and Bastille, X Ambassadors are irrefutably radio-friendly and even more-crowd friendly.
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Harris introduced “Naked” as a song about caring deeply for someone before adding with a grin, “It’s also a song about taking all your clothes off.” Later, he shared the genesis of “Nervous” and how he's continually plagued by “that feeling that something bad is going to happen.” This sort of raw emotion and, well, “naked” honesty are the most appealing aspects of X Ambassadors. They perfectly straddle the line between crafting sultry, candle-lit music for the ladies and funky, powerful rock rhythms for the guys.
The final third of the show, a concert in which they pretty much played the entirety of their debut LP, VHS, featured the muscular duo of “Jungle” and of course, the song most paid good money to hear, “Renegades.” It brought a satisfying closure to an intense one-night stand full of intimacy and that tingly feeling that travels from the heart to the stomach and back to the heart again.