The xx @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London, 10 Sept
The xx are home. Tonight marks the launch of their second album, Coexist, and the trio are more buoyant than the girls are have ever seen them. Coexist, the record, is a progression in the Londoners’ trademark desire-saturated intimacy, but it still retains that established reliance on pauses and spaces. Tonight, however, the band demonstrate their vitality by transforming their songs into a celebratory rave.
They are clearly close-knit. In the interim between records Jamie Smith has been evolving his remix skills. It’s evident from Oliver Sims’ almost helpless dancing while Jamie lays out the throbbing underblanket of beats that his bandmates are very much big fans of his. Oliver and Romy Madley Croft dance with each other and their guitars in an interaction that would seem like rock star posturing if they weren’t grinning so much.
It’s unusual for a band to play quite so many new-to-the-fans songs in a set, and for those songs to go down so well. True the band have been previewing Coexist live for months now, and the record was streamed online pre-release, but the girls are overhear more than one bemused punter whisper, “sounds like I’ll be getting the new record…” For that matter, the crowd tonight are very talkative. While they whoop and holler at the classic tracks that they almost recognise [most songs are re-fashioned this evening into gargantuan sonic proportions] this doesn’t stop them excitedly chattering all the way through. Perhaps they are feeding off the energy coming from the stage. Romy and Oliver both take turns in effusively thanking the audience. Jamie spots his grandma in the balcony seats. It’s all very heart-warming but this is The xx, the band it feels almost obscene to listen to with a group of people. Tonight – tonight – tonight – is different… The band has curated their songs into a set that gasps and jolts from one song to another; there is non-stop dancing from ‘Reunion’ into ‘Sunset’ into ‘Night Time’ into ‘Swept Away’ into ‘Shelter’.
Jamie and Oliver’s bass notes thrum deeper and louder than Shepherd’s Bush Empire can contain. On record the band create the impression of volume with silences, live tonight they use enormous bass to make their songs gigantic. Glitter showers onto the audience during ‘Fantasy’. The band begin their set silhouetted behind a muslin screen for ‘Angels’, but by the middle of the evening the stage is drenched in floodlights [‘Sunset’], and then they become shadow puppets again for ‘Swept Away’. By the orgasm-building part of ‘Infinity’ an enormous X is revealed hanging above the stage. It fills with dry ice and twinkles for set-closer ‘Stars’. This was their homecoming party, an opportunity to thank their fans for success that they admit they didn’t see coming. The band is visibly delighted; they walk to the front of the stage, hold hands, and leave as one.
If you were one the lucky people to get a ticket to this sold out show, what was your favourite moment? And what do you think of the new record?