Concealed behind a giant screen it seems The XX may have turned to Gorillaz style shadow puppetry. Finally it drops to reveal the gently strumming the opening chords of ‘Crystallised’.
After the recent departure of keyboard player Baria Qureshi, burnt out by the stresses of touring, they seem spread out and slightly detached. Moving under the lights in slow motion, stop-shutter movements Romy and Oliver mix their voices into a lyrical tangle.
The atmosphere is hushed until thunderous bursts of bass appear, setting the walls shuddering as if a wrecking ball is about to raze the building the ground. The fragile whisper of ‘Shelter’ and Romy’s delicate vocal bursts are almost wiped out altogether. Like David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ played on a child’s xylophone ‘VCR’ is at once bashfully sweet and soaringly atmospheric. As the chiming notes richochet back and forth they seem to have finally won their battle against the background hum.
With their album currently dominating magazine covers front and back the crowds and the venues keep getting bigger. Limited by their tiny back catalogue minimalistic covers of disco classic ‘Teardrops’ and Aaliyah song ‘Hot Like Fire’ help to fill out the gaps.
Their heavily reverb laden guitars, quiffed hairdo’s and sly reference to ‘Wicked Game’ during ‘Infinity’ echoes their love of all things Chris Isaak;thankfully they draw the line at sporting Elvis style suits. With a solitary encore of ‘Stars’, they leave some disappointed their Florence and The Machine mashup didn’t make the cut. The soaring chords build to a gentle climax then abruptly slip away, leading the assembled gathering blinking into the light. Walking a fine line between darkly enigmatic and chillingly aloof The XX are still a band it’s hard not to love. Gently creeping into the nations hearts, by Summer they will be hard to miss.
By Kate Parkin
Originally published in issue 15 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. March 2010