The xx Produced One Of The Greatest Live Performances I Will Ever See

The minute after I purchased these tickets to see a band I have wanted to see for a very long time, I knew this gig would be special. The mega sized Nottingham Arena would be The xx’s home for the evening, in a show that was their first in the UK for 4 years.

The extremely late announcement of Francis And The Lights as the sole support act for the evening was a welcoming addition to the evening. He provided an energetic set of electronic, synth heavy, smooth dance music. Francis, during throughout the set peraded up and down the stage, dancing wild, and pulling off some pretty incredible moves.

When The xx walked on stage, the 10,000 capacity venue suddenly erupted with applauds, whistles and cheering. The band opened with ‘Say Something Loving’, a melodic and quite frankly stunning track. The stunning duets of Romy Madly Croft and Oliver Sim were as incredible live as they were on the album. Jamie provided some expertly crafted electronic synths throughout the entire evening. It was apparent that the band wanted a heavier and louder approach to their songs on their live sets.

The stage design was also pretty spectacular. The large reflective panels on the side of the stage  rotated and reflected light, giving the illusion of multiple strobes, when intact only two were used. The floor was see through, and encased large LED lights which provided incredible lighting as they reflected off yet another large panel which was suspended above the band.

‘Crystallised’ then followed in the setlist and provided to be a stunning moment of the evening. Romy’s guitar playing was elegant and appeared much heavier and vibrant, creating a vibrant atmosphere. Fan favourite ‘Islands’ gave us an exquisite light show with large spotlights being sent flying across the stage, hitting the reflective pannels and bouncing across the audience.

‘Lips’ allowed Jamie to really shine. The ‘I See You’ deep cut was turned into an almost house/dance styled performance with Jamie bringing in some pretty eccentric and unique beats and synths into the mix. We then had a complete contrast with the band inducting ‘Sunset’ into the evening. The bass was loud, and a soft house style was implimented with the culmination of Ollie’s bass and Jamie’s electronic synthesisers and mixing desk.

Debut album track ‘Basic Space’ added to the nostalgia of listening to ‘xx’ on repeat when I first discovered the trio. Its a deep cut from the album, yet its still as beautiful and mesmerising as any other xx track. New album track ‘Performance’ provided an emotional performance from Romy, with her vocals captivating the members of the audience. Before sining the track she said “I’ll have to sing this one by myself now. Im sorry if i mess up or anything”. She didn’t mess up, in fact, her flawless guitar playing and stunning vocals bought some people to tears. The emotive performance prompted Ollie to embrace her after she had finished playing the track.

We then had a complete contrast in tracks.  ‘Brave For You’ was most likely one of the most epic and loudest tracks that I have heard live. Everything about this track was purely stunning when played live. Roma’s vocals were beautiful, alongside her elegant guitar playing. Ollie was swaying from side to side when producing the expertly crafted bass rift. But, it was Jamie who defiantly had an influence on this track. Someone must have turned the bass up to max because it felt like the entire building was shaking. During the breakdown, when Ollie’s bass sticks out with perfection, everyone was stunned. A spot light lit Ollie up in darkness and each time, the bass sounded like it was going to rip apart the building the crowd didn’t know how to respond, apart from standing back and taking it all in. The ending of the track was met with strong strobes and red flashing lights. It was pretty spectacular.

During dreamy debut album track ‘Infinity’, the band created an ambient atmosphere of heavenly lights and guitars. The call and response like vocals of Romy and Oliver send chills down the spine, and the crescendo of the track, towards the end was monumental with a thumping and pounding bass which sent vibrations across the venue and the minds of the audience. The reverb heavy guitars of ‘Chained’ were monumental. Like every track played, the bass was immense and each time a chord was struck the sound was mesmerising.

‘A Violent Noise’ was, top put it into words, crazy. The end of that track was played to absolute perfection and made to sound loud, and, well violent. The title of the song lived up to its name live. ‘Fiction’ was another top track that stood out. It was emotional, and the lyrics sang by Ollie were full of heart and it was something we also saw on ‘Shelter’ which was performed by Romy, again to high appraisal.

‘Loud Places’, the Jamie xx mega hit was played and it blew the entire crowd away. The last song before the band went off for the encore, Romy took centre stage on the vocals, with Jamie turning the song into a mega, bass heavy and melodic track. The rainbow coloured lights lit up the stage, and when the chorus kicked in, a sharp and bright yellow was plastered across the entire interior of the the venue. Loud percussion, dreamy vocals, and emphatic bass collided to create an unimaginable live performance.

Image courtesy of Meena Das-Gupta

The encoure was pretty sensational as well. The ending of Loud Places was left on a loop, when Jamie returned to the stage and mixed the track into one hefty rave banger with extreme bass and energy, whilst also bringing in the sampled vocals of ‘On Hold’. This combination of noise, with the bright strobes going off left, right and centre. ‘On Hold’ was mixed in perfectly. When Romy returned to the stage and uttered the first words of the track, the crowd joined in, everyone singing the lyrics to their latest hit.

before the band continued, Romy and Oliver took the chance to thank the fans, saying “this is our first show in theUK for four years. We just wanted to say thank you to the fans for helping us reach number 1. We thought that was a place for Miley Cyrus and Rihanna. It honestly means so much to us. So thank you.” And before you know it, Romy walked to the centre of the stage, and the opening chords of ‘Intro’ were played.

‘Intro’ was impeccable. Again, the house elements fluttered through this song, yet the guitar was beautiful and rhythmic, and the soft groans of Romy and Oliver filled the room with emotion. But it was ‘Angels’ that topped it all off. The final track played, it was calm and extremely emotional. The crowd sang the soft and emotive lyrics at the top of their voice. It was a pretty stunning way to end the set. A set that i will always remeber, and one that in my books, will be most likely one of the greatest live performances, I will ever see.

The xx played:

Say Something Loving
Basic Space
Brave for You
I Dare You
A Violent Noise
Loud Places

On Hold

Words by Piran Aston

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