Thursday, March 4

The xx @ Shepherd's Bush Empire 03/03/10

. Thursday, March 4

The xx are a decidedly nocturnal band. Their debut album was recorded in the hours most of us have given over to sleep and all three members seem like they have never even seen seven in the morning, never mind tried to operate in it. It's fitting then that tonight's show begins from behind a huge white sheet. From under the covers the band are projected in striking silhouette, cutting iconic shapes.

Just seven months ago The xx were struggling to be heard over poor festival sound systems so it is noticeable just how far their stage show has come along. Singer Oliver Sim admits that, "Our stage banter is so rubbish" and he isn't wrong but with songs as all involving as 'Islands' the trio get away with the lack of jokes.

Sim takes the role as band leader, introducing songs and playing some percussion in addition to giving songs like Crystalised his off kilter vocals. He is not a bad singer per se but certainly one who lives in between the notes many vocalists call home. His interjections have a creeping and off kilter feel to them, leading The xx down many a dark alley way. In contrast his opposite number Romy Croft has a note perfect voice, a thing of hushed beauty. This combined with her minimal but defining guitar work elevates album tracks Night Time and Shelter to set highlights.

It is member number three where the true talent here lies however. Jamie Smith stands unassumingly behind two boxes marked with illuminated crosses all evening but his input is invaluable. A digital brain behind Smith and Croft's old school analogue hearts Smith gives The xx their power. His beats and clicks break the muffled reverence of the bands recordings out of their introspective confines and even give a cover of Womack and Womack's Teardrops a two step makeover.

It would be patronising to describe The xx as a 'London band'. Their songs may have been born on the streets of the city but each one is a message in a bottle which, thanks to an unrivalled blog presence, has seen their stock rise worldwide. This London show is a homecoming however and a celebratory one at that. As the ticker tapes descends and lights fittingly twinkle to set closer Stars only a true curmudgeon would deny this band what is surely their best live show to date.



Martin said...

I thought Oliver's voice was stunning last night, i didn't pick up on any pitch problems. His voice has so much emotion, i find it quite heartbreaking at times.

The giant X at the start was so thrilling

It was a fantastic show!!

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