The xx made their triumphant return to the UK at the Motorpoint Arena on Saturday night. After years of building anticipation and battling personal issues, they have reformed stronger than ever with a fresh sound. With their new album, I See You, the band have expanded their horizons and moved out of the introspective tone of the first two albums. Their concept transfered to the stage design as mirrors surrounded them from all sides, acting as a reflection of their album cover. The mirror suspended from the ceiling gave everyone a view of the band from above, making their stage space seem more intimate.
Their infamously intense sets have been well suited to smaller venues and there was a pressure to prove their worth in an arena show; they were aware of this as Oliver remarked on their first show being at the Bodega to 20 people in contrast to the arena. They did not disappoint. By taking inspiration from Jamie xx’s DJ success with his album, In Colour, they transformed their songs to make a dance-filled set full of heavy beats and booming bass lines. The crowd were well aware of this and were ready to dance and sing the lyrics throughout the set.
The band weren’t afraid of experimenting as they sampled Sweet like Chocolate with Fiction, a combination you wouldn’t expect to work yet they pulled it off with slick professionalism. The trio were clearly well rehearsed and close with each other as they moved seamlessly from song to song, which were interspersed with beats from Jamie. One of the more emotional moments of the night was Romy’s solo of Performance, yet her bandmates stayed on stage to watch her as a sign of their support for their growing individual lives. They appeared comfortable on stage as they swayed with each other and dominated their own space. Another highlight was the euphoric cover of Jamie xx’s Loud Places which was played alongside the rainbow lighting, acknowledging the success of his album In Colour.
They returned from the encore with their single On Hold which samples Hall and Oates, a crowd pleaser and one of their strongest from the album. Then the popular instrumental track Intro followed setting an intense atmosphere with a heavy drum beat and a faster pace than usual. The final song, Angels, is one of their most heartfelt songs and left the crowd enraptured by their intimate performance.
The xx were humble yet powerful, a combination that gives them the number one status they deserve.
Photo credits: Jon Wilkinson