For the last week, the sign outside the O2 Academy Brixton has read ‘The xx: 7 Nights Sold Out’.
After originally announcing only three shows at the venue in November last year, the vast demand for tickets allowed the band to spread the event into a week-long celebration, now titled Night + Day Festival. With the gigs themselves supported by the likes of Robyn, Cat Power, Floating Points and Gilles Peterson, the ‘festival’ also included several after-parties and DJ sets by friends of the band, and a 6-hour set for charity by Jamie xx on Sunday (March 12th).
I attended the third show of the week, on the Friday night, and quickly realised just how much the popularity of The xx had blown up with the recent release of their album, I See You. With a five year gap since the last album, Coexist, unsurprisingly there’s been a lot of anticipation and high expectations for the return of a band so universally loved, and as far as I can tell there hasn’t been a single disappointed fan. To match the step up in production and creativity found on the new album, the live shows have also reached a new level of ethereal beauty – even for The xx.
What we used to know as the dark, sombre aesthetic of The xx and their live shows has been completely transformed, as straight from the beginning – opening with the new track ‘Say Something Loving’ – huge mirrors surrounding the band rotated to create an immense light-show unlike anything I’ve seen before. The incredible reflective experience worked to enhance the more positive and bold aspects of the new album, such as ‘Lips’, ‘I Dare You’ and ‘Dangerous’, showing how Jamie xx’s solo work during the bands hiatus has brought an assertive, upbeat influence to help develop their overall sound. Many old favourites like ‘Crystalised’, ‘Islands’, ‘Chained’ and ‘Fiction’ were also brought to life by the kaleidoscope of lights pulsating from the stage, while the tender charm of ‘VCR’ was performed in a pink dream-like haze, perfectly capturing the warm and emotional essence of this incredible homecoming achievement for the band.
Their heart wrenching capabilities, that we’ve always known and loved, were further realised when Romy took centre stage to sing new album-track ‘Performance’ by herself, expressing how deeply meaningful the song is to her, before punching us all in the heart with the lyrics “I do it all so/You won’t see me hurting/When my heart it breaks/I’ll put on a performance/I’ll put on a brave face”. And then taking this into the equally emotionally powerful ‘Brave For You’.
Despite the often-melancholy sound that many have associated with The xx in the past, the new album is distinctly more optimistic, and this shines through in their increasingly confident live capabilities, with the set closing with an incredibly disco-esque version of ‘Shelter’, and a technicolour dream of Jamie’s and Romy’s collaboration ‘Loud Places’, released on his solo album In Colour in 2015. Of course then there was also an encore, as the crowd rightfully begged for the show not to end, and the band returned to play new single ‘On Hold’, and old hits ‘Intro’ and ‘Angels’. Thanking everyone involved for the incredible opportunity, they showed the rare feat of a band able to sell out seven nights at one of the city’s biggest venues whilst also staying humble and grateful for all the success that they have so deservedly received. This new growth and identity of The xx has further confirmed them as one of the most intensely exciting, interesting, and important bands of our time.
Watch their latest single ‘Say Something Loving’ on YouTube: