The 7000 or so capacity of the Motorpoint Arena Cardiff along with a completely sold out tour displays how quietly The XX have become – almost necessarily – huge.
Three albums in and showing no signs of waining at all the mood pre gig is one of bubbly enthusiasm from quite a cross spectrum of attendees.
The Alessi Brothers sample intro of Say Something Loving aptly opens the show underlining the slightly more dance orientated movement of I See You. A minimal yet impressive stage set mirroring a disco ball with moving dance floor – even if the dance floor is the walls and ceiling.
No messing and straight into the double whammy of Crystalised and Islands as the first album is delved into with real confidence. Crowd pleasing is easy with songs this good, the vibe notches up into the Friday night feel it is in Cardiff. Intimate yet somehow all encompassing. That double vocal delivery, bass, guitar and beats makes one question shouldn’t all music be this simple and damn charming.
Lips flits back to the new album and again has more samples playing into that dreamy double front delivery pulling ones eyes to the 3 that are The XX. Coexist is visited for the first time with Sunset and the vibe settles at an easy pace. Basic Space plays somewhat of a masterstroke with its stop / start nature serving to casually yet euphorically raise the bar yet higher.
The electronic lullaby that is Performance comes next easing into the delicate murmers of Brave For You. Those delicate rumbles build – padded with electronic patterns leading one to the unlikeliest of Rave feels fully accepted by the 7000 in the arena. Brave For You almost cheekily adds subtle hints of Leftism (Leftfield) as it snakes away leaving you wanting more – the party is hitting full flow.
…and what better way to cement the party than the sheer bliss that is Infinity. Bass that simply goes completely through you. A bass boom one would associate more with Motorhead perhaps, the music flowing through everyone adding to the unity, everyone actually feeling it and clearly loving the moment. The chimes of VCR signal The XX are pulling out all of their delicate stops. The live delivery has more fizz than on the debut album and it’s noticeable that full on Rave is potentially just moments away at almost any given point.
The gig has the feel that all three albums are being represented in the bands current mode with added electronica and left of centre dance vibe – yet I Dare You from the current album serves to be the most minimal and stripped back. A near solo performance.
Shuffling this away is the skittleing Dangerous with its horns and side-sweeping beaming beats. Danger Danger and the voltage is certainly high. Jamie XX takes somewhat of the centre stage from the back on Chained as the “ooh ooh oohs” are risen over with beats sneaking into UK Garage at times. That threat of the dance beats taking over is a more and more emerging theme and as the night draws deeper it seems totally fitting. The bars Shanks & Bigfoots – “Sweet Like Chocolate” drop clearly and in big style. The teased crowd are at exploding point, in a good way.
A Violent Noise with its euphoric blips somehow calms things down a little. The robotic delivery of Fiction also halts the mood with its mellow welcome scars. Shelter is always going to be a winner and tonight is absolutely no exception.
As the eyes widen and the beats hit Loud Places – the only non The XX track of the night (but a Jamie XX track) booms to what feels like a set ending DJ set. This is curtailed quickly however and the blink and you’ll miss it no departing encore begins.
On Hold has the perfect set slotting here. That Hall & Oats sample, that mutation, that lull into The XX sound. It mixes everything past and present about the outfit and shows they have lost nothing and prepared to represent their past proven tracks in this guise. The discotheque stage moves and reassembles itself mirrors glisten, lights phase from black and white into rainbow beams – and the music mirrors this exactly. Rainbows from pain.
Intro sits strangely in name only, near the end, before Angels ends what has been and night of really lovingly crafted warms songs. The XX formula is a winning one yet their minimal sincere style is open to experimentation and on tonights performance they are still very much on the up & up even if the favourites of many are tied to their debut album…