8   +   5   =  

the-xx20/12/12

After upgrading venue sizes, tonight’s performance from The XX questions the potential of such a minimal sound in a 5000 capacity venue. Many of the audience openly speculate whether a band that became popular through their intimate roots will be able to adapt. Compared to Brighton Dome, the large corporate arrangement of the venue tonight lacks character and hospitality. On entrance it screams bleak conference centre. The tedious amounts of queuing and youthful audience almost confirm any thoughts that The Dome would have been a more appropriate setting.

Poor sound from support Mmoths and The Kindness suggest the headlining band may be in for a challenge. The dulcet tones of minimal collective Mmoths set the mood for the crowd but struggle to gain any momentum. The Kindness then take to the stage in an overly extrovert manner. Eccentric dancers and 60’s soul reaps through, leaving audience members feeling confused as to how they’ve ended up on tonight’s bill. The only element, which so far captivates are the accompanying retro visuals displayed on a futuristic backdrop.

Then emerging from behind a compelling projection of oil and metal, the military statures of The XX begin to loom on stage.  Three of the most enigmatic characters in pop music greet their audience nervously before ploughing straight into chart topping single Angels. The band have played a number of intimate venues in this influential seaside town “You’re like our second home to us Brighton”, singer Oliver Sims laughs. Within a few songs the venue is forgotten and you’re transported into an evocative ambience.

The dark silhouettes imitate Romy, Oliver and Jamie as they ease their way through a set of hypnotic melodies from both their debut album The XX and latest release Co-exist, including cult classics Crystallise and Basic Space. After Nightime, the venue encounters its first hint of movement, intense reverb shakes the balcony erratically but the crowd remain still.  Jamie Smith, manages to pick up the pace on Reunion and Islands with more sub rhythms and a glimmer of Dub. Older songs from their debut album are often reworked and remoulded throughout the night providing interesting changes from their two years of live crafting. Half way through the show, it appears each member is becoming less reserved and we start to witness the characters behind the music.

Throughout the performance, continuous strobes and abstract projections are interspersed between songs to heighten the occasion. The fixating atmosphere, lo-fi instrumentation and lingering vocals are then interrupted by the band’s own take on Wham’s Last Christmas which fails to translate. Perhaps this is their suggestion against the serious personas they choose to adopt. The night’s aura is then regained with an increase of BPM for a stunning encore ending with the haunting emotion of Stars. Questioning of the venue is no longer necessary, as the audience stand mesmerised. A giant glowing X rises behind them, as the band walk off stage having achieved a musically flawless performance of melancholy noise and arena welcoming precision.

★★★★★

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