I have to admit, I’d not heard of The XX or their music at the time of offering to review them, and seeing the audience consisting of mainly under twenties, I was concerned I’d made a slight error of judgment.
The mixing desk must get a mention, as towering above it are two large projectors and, to each side, strobes and blue police style flashing lights. As it’s nearly the festive season there are also various Santas around the desk, fairy lights and the ‘front room’ feel is completed by a Christmas tree and standard lamp.
A large drape hangs in front of the stage, but this is see-through, and as the band take to the stage, the two projectors cast their images, whilst behind the band are lit and appear; a simple but very effective piece of staging. Opening with ‘Angels’ from the recent ‘Co-exist’ album it’d be all too easy to use Massive Attack and Everything But The Girl comparisons, but there’s something different about The XX. What they do they do very well, and their songs and sound are sublime. Before a magnificent ‘Crystalised’ we are told that this is “a special gig for us as it’s the first time we’ve played in Wolverhampton, sorry for taking so long”, and I have to admit I can’t see them playing here again, because it’s clear their next shows will be in the cavernous arenas in Birmingham.
The set is full of songs from both albums, and the aforementioned blue police lights are used during ‘Night time’. There’s also two dry ice machines on the mixing desk, and this really does give a feel that the band are trying to move the show out into the audience, rather than having racks of lights and effects on the stage, in a way it puts more focus on the music. There’s also virtually no communication or vocal interaction with the audience, the whole evening is about the music.
I loved this gig, the only negative was those individuals who insist on chatting, usually shouting, throughout, which really is noticeable during softer quiet parts of the songs. I have never understood why people part with hard-earned cash to see a band and then shout at their mates throughout the set.
So The XX were stunning, simple, understated and magnificent. I’d certainly see them again but I reckon their obvious popularity explosion will see them playing bigger venues next time. I’ve since got their back-catalogue and it’s a remarkable body of work.
Heart skipped a beat
Review by Glenn Raybone
Photographs by John Bentley