It is the type of heat that feels like you are standing on a thousand suns. It is sticky and muggy, with each breath sending musky warmth into the air. The sweat rolls down your back, making you shift your weight. It may sound like the beginning of a summer horror film, but for those gathered in the O2 Academy the sweaty mess was just the price paid to experience The XX. The warmth in the venue was uncontrollable, but fans did not seem to mind. Rather they where focused on the trio’s candy coated electropop performance that left us exhausted but enthused. The XX popped into the O2 Academy for a pre-Glastonbury set, bringing the good vibes with their indie pop electronic tunes.
After Kelly Lee Owens opened the night, The XX sauntered onto the stage with an instrumental intro. Their monochromatic clothes and simple set aesthetics highlight the hipster obsession that has come to pontificate their demographic. They are way too cool for all of this, as they nonchalantly enwrap the audience in lightly infused music. “Dangerous” breaks the instrumentals, bringing life into their music. The song is indie electronic that displays a more sedated, lighter end that the band has sometimes hidden. While it may not be as pop infused or as upbeat, the song demonstrates the maturity of sound that The XX offer. “Crystallized” and “Say Something” continue in the same vein, understated both musically and in performance the songs offer a slower start to the set.
The lights begin to change and morph, as does the sound. “Performance,” “Infinity” and “VCR” slowly pick up the energy in the room. The songs increasingly integrate more electronic club elements, and the lights and production slowly become more bombastic. By the time “Islands,” a song dedicated to all the singles in the audience, comes through the speakers the lasers are on full blast and the electronic pop nuances are fully present.
Bodies are not just swaying, rather they are now moving in violent synchronization as The XX infuses the room with euphoric notes. “Fiction” and “Shelter” bring audiences into full delirium, mixed with the intoxicating strobes of light and candy coloured stage The XX is in full showmanship. No doubt the climactic build is impressive, and I can only imagine that it will be even more so when The XX play at Glastonbury. “On Hold” and “Angles” end the set, with the encore seeing “Lips,” “Chained,” and “Our Song.” The band leaves in sweaty heaps of black clothing, and we all begrudgingly leave the room destined for fresh air.
In a market saturated in similar sound, The XX have crafted a place in the industry that will be a stronghold for them for years to come. Their music is energetic, even with a more subdued beginning, and their stage presence is impressive. The ability to mix club concentrated DJ work with an indie pop sensibility displays the mastery of The XX and how they truly understand the expansive taste of fans.
The O2 Academy show displayed The XX’s ability to craft thoughtful and youthful songs that please a multitude of ears and dance desires, a euphoric mix that will bring them fame or at least a great crowd at Glastonbury.
Reviewer: Kylie McCormick
Photographer: Marc Osborne