“I knew it’d be good, but I didn’t think it’d be this good,” said the lady standing next to me, a grey fox some may call her. Her hubby, also donning salt and pepper hair, was dancing around trying to figure out how to record on his iPhone 4.
Since their first album ‘xx’, the British trio have released another two, and are now touring their latest release ‘I See You’, which came out at the beginning of the year. I made a significant claim that their first album ‘xx’ was one of the most cohesive contemporary albums. And, that’s what this British band master – consistency. After releasing their third album ‘I See You’, Romy, Oliver and Jamie xx travelled to Australia to play their one and only show at North Byron Parklands’ Splendour in the Grass. By the end of their set I remembered why I had made such a claim and why I am still keeping my word, but I had a stark realisation.
The xx are certainly artists, they curate the whole experience creating a set that evolves into a cohesive and inclusive show that elaborately drifts between art and music. Opening the set with a fitting and very well-known choice ‘Intro’ from their first album. Immediately the crowd was enchanted to the celestial yet brooding atmosphere the trio created.
Followed by another from their debut album, ‘Crystallised’, the crowd awoke during those three opening chords. The mirrors on stage turned, the red lasers struck the crowd, and the ambient orange smoke flooded the stage. An atmosphere was created in mere minutes. In those minutes I realised that it’s not only their album which is cohesive, but as a band, and as artists, the xx are certainly one of the most immersive and harmonious bands I have had the pleasure of seeing. They are not a trio that touches upon what you hear and see but almost every sense is influenced by their performance.
Following this were tracks from their new album, ‘Dangerous,’ ‘I Dare You,’ ‘Performance’ and ‘Brave For You’. Romy’s voice was sincere and sweet, an alluring factor consistent in the latest release. ‘Islands’ and ‘Infinity’ both returning from their first LP were crowd favourites and had the power to remind the audience of their development and growth as a band.
‘A Violent Noise’, performed solely by Oliver and Jamie xx, excited the crowd for Jamie’s solo coming up. With Jamie’s solo album ‘In Colour’, released in 2015, gaining massive reception, Romy and Oliver exited the stage and let the genius play. For a few short moments it was only Jamie, his drums and the laptop. The lights and mirrors were in sync and it was a visual and musical instant of solitude shared with thousands.
But then, the xylophone began to play, and I could hear gasps of excitement. The sweet song, ‘VCR’, from their first album played and Romy and Oli joined him back on stage. ‘Fiction’ finally being a song from their second album lead into ‘Shelter’ from their first. As I turned around, I saw the grey fox and her husband recording amongst thousands of other phones along the famous Splendour hill.
The xx had created celebration. And what better song after this than ‘Loud Places’ – a song on Jamie xx’s ‘In Colour’ solo album featuring Romy and perhaps turned out to be one of the most well received tracks. It was that song where people started climbing up on other people’s shoulders, where your hands were up and you were completely taken by the music. As the yellow smoke and lights infiltrated the crowd like a foggy Melbourne morning, the shadows of the people and their smiles was enough to show the musical impact of the trio.
Continuing with the vibes the trio played ‘On Hold.’ Yet, there was a more earnest ending to their set as they concluded with ‘Angels’ from their second album. The first closing act of Splendour left an impression. The xx were inclusive of everyone at the North Byron Parklands and encouraged us all to dance, cry (I know I did) and be musically and visually elated.
In recent news, The xx have also just announced a run of outdoor summer shows for their I See You tour and will be back in Melbourne supported by Kelela and Earl Sweatshirt on the 13th of January. Get your tickets here.