The xx

support Kelela
author MIN date 10/02/17 venue Forum, Copenhagen, DEN

Both when reviewing their new album and prior to going to tonight’s show in Forum, I couldn’t help but think that maybe The xx had gone too far from their melancholic yet dreamy indie-rock core for our webzine to justify reviewing them anymore. Their newest album, ”I See You”, had definitely incorporated a lot more electronic and pop influences than the band’s first two albums, which raised the question: where does that fine line go? The very same question can be raised when we’re talking about bands like Bon Iver and Beach House, but it’s more evident in the case of The xx, especially since the trio’s DJ and all-round guy Jamie xx has started peeping in more often. Throughout my review, this matter will be discussed sporadically. As for tonight’s support, the xx had brought along with them the R&B singer Kelela, who definitely is out of our spectrum, and I have therefore chosen not to review her set.

All photos courtesy of Philip B. Hansen

The xx

When it was first announced that The xx was going to play at Forum, I was honestly a little annoyed. Why did they have to play this infamous place now that the Royal Arena was ready? Well, as you may or may not have read, my first impression of that arena’s soundscape was rather disappointing, and as it would turn out tonight, the sound at Forum on this February Friday is actually decent. During the first song of the show, “Dangerous”, and for the first minute or two of “Crystalised”, the bass guitar is too murky, but luckily it’s quickly fixed and causes no real harm on the overall impression of the concert. But already now, this early in the show, I can tell that it’s going to be very different from what I’ve previously seen and heard from the band.

If you’ve ever had a conversation with me on a late night after a few beers, discussing modern indie-rock, contemporary popular music and such, you’ve probably heard me rant about the phenomenal experience that The xx provided when I was visiting the Pukkelpop Festival in Belgium in 2013. It was huge but intimate; few words were said between songs, only lights in the shape of x’s clad the scene, and the focus was a lot more on Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim’s dark melodies than on Jamie xx in the back. Well, tonight is definitely not the same: although Croft and Sim (especially the former) are still introvert beings, they’ve come a lot more out of their shells than expected. They still feel humble, but are at the same time very talkative and actually greet and thank us for coming out several times. The biggest game-changer, however, is probably that of Jamie. His huge setup (including turntables, various types of percussion, keyboards, et cetera) is placed on a pair of silver/see-through boxes that replicate the huge rotating mirrors above and beside the band. Production value has definitely increased, but while everything is enormous, it still feels small.

But on to the music itself: let it be said that the harmonies and melodies created between Croft and Sim are amazing. Whether it’s the intimate push-and-pull vocal deliveries in “Brave for You” and “Say Something Loving”, the interplay of guitar and bass in “Islands” and “Replica”, or the strange percussion of “VCR”, The xx pull it off. There are a few hick-ups now and then, but they’re more often than not accompanied by a smile. At one point, Croft messes up the first few notes of a song, only to have Jamie spin the vinyl on his turntable backwards as if he’s highlighting that they’re going to rewind and play the chords all over — these mistakes are charmingly atoned for. Other faults, such as a declining peak in “A Violent Noise”, however, are graver and unfortunately take the climax out of the song. Furthermore, there’s the classic ‘old man rant’ about people talking too much during shows; a lot of the time, when some of the band’s older material is performed, you can hear the rumble from the back of the building. But luckily songs like “Performance” (featuring Croft solo) are so bare and beautiful that even the most ambitious Snapchatter has to stop and stare. Most of the crowd gets overly excited afterwards when the band decides to play “Too Good”, which apparently is a cover of Drake’s song of the same name. Honestly, it’s a brilliant rendition that I wouldn’t have been without, but it also amplifies my previous question: is it still relevant for us at Rockfreaks.net to cover The xx?

There’s no denying the band’s roots: Cocteau Twins, The Cure, New Order and many other highly relevant bands are evident in a lot of The xx’s music. But when the show draws nearer to its climax, it becomes clear that the past days of dark melancholy have been exchanged with more radio-friendly songs that, despite their high quality and serious lyrics, are not quite suited for our webzine. Be that as it may, the last part of the show’s main set, plus the first song of the encore, is one huge party where delicious guitar and bass melodies intertwine with the pulsing rhythms and sampling of Jamie xx’s huge setup. Everybody is singing along to the excellent melodies of “Loud Places” (a Jamie xx cover) and “On Hold”, and we even get a few more breathtaking songs from the band’s earlier discography. Once the roaring applause that follows “Intro” ends, the intimate “Angels” take over and leaves both goose bumps and teary eyes in the large venue. 10.000 people witnessed a fabulous fusion between electronic and organic music that reaches both for your heart and your lungs, providing both food for thought and a lack of air. In short, The xx delivers yet another spellbinding performance where they mix up their usual formula to deliver something new. The conclusion to my initial question is sadly that by the looks of it — with the xx’s change in sound — we probably won’t cover them in the future, but I’m glad we’ve had the opportunity to do so before they completely went over to the other side.

Setlist:

  • 01. Dangerous
  • 02. Crystalised
  • 03. Say Something Loving
  • 04. Islands
  • 05. Lips
  • 06. Replica
  • 07. Brave For You
  • 08. Infinity
  • 09. Basic Space
  • 10. Performance
  • 11. Too Good (Drake cover)
  • 12. A Violent Noise
  • 13. VCR
  • 14. I Dare You
  • 15. Fiction
  • 16. Shelter
  • 17. Loud Places (Jamie XX cover)

— Encore —

  • 18. On Hold
  • 19. Intro
  • 20. Angels

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