The XX @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire 10th September 2012

The last time I witnessed The xx play was at Shepherd’s Bush Empire when they were supporting Florence and the Machine in 2009. Back then they were a 4 piece, now only 3 members remain as guitarist Baria Qureshi left leaving only Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith (AKA Jamie xx). This date turned out to be a sell out which then resulted me in turning up at 12pm to find myself to be the only one there. It actually shocked me, here is a band who played 3 intimate warm up shows in May (Electrowerkz, Chats Place and Battersea Arts Centre) and it was impossible to get tickets as it was done via a ballot system. Sophomore album Coexist had been released on the day of the gig and I listened to it beforehand to get familiar with the songs. I liked what I heard and at the time of writing this review it is no surprise that it topped the album charts.

Supporting were 2:54 and I was surprised how much I enjoyed the 6 songs that were showcased. Performed were Circuitry, Sugar, You’re Early, Scarlet, Easy Undercover and Creeping. The style of music that they sang was Indie Rock and their début album 2:54 was also released this year. I first saw them support Warpaint and they literally blew me away. Second time I did not really connect with the material. They do say the phrase Third time lucky and this was the case I enjoyed every single second. Once over a white curtain came down covering up what they were setting up on stage.

Things kicked off with the opening track to Coexist and this was Angels. An image of smoke was projected onto the translucent curtain then Romy sang this beautiful crowd pleasing song. The lyrical content was superb and everyone sang along to the light chorus. This song was light, mellowing, melodic indie pop. It was then onto something from the début album Xx and this was to be Heart Skipped A Beat. Both Romy and Oliver shared the vocals for this song which sounded rather sleek. Both their vocal tones are extremely different. Romy’s were light and breezy whilst Oliver were hushed. Chained was next and this being a spellbinding tune from the sophomore album Coexist. The vocals were shared between both Romy and Oliver which combined to created something rather entrancing. I was captivated from beginning to end. Chained was a mellowing track which was delivered to perfection. “It’s a big day. Not only did the album come out today but it’s such a pleasure to be back home. Thank you so much for bringing us here” Oliver Sim told the sold out Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Fiction was next up and it was mainly sung by Oliver. This was a promising tune and it definitely is single material. It was then onto a true gem which got the crowd going and this being début single Crystalised. Both Romy’s and Oliver’s vocals compliment each other. This crowd pleasing soft soothing tune sounded like a lullaby. Fantasy from the first album followed. This was a slow paced song which Oliver mainly sung. Towards the end silver ticker tape fell from the ceiling which made this quite a spectacle. For Missing the Empire was plunged into darkness for the beginning of the tune. I must say this was really beautiful and it has to be there in my top 5 xx songs. A double header of songs from Coexist were up next. The first of these tunes being Reunion and I found Romy’s vocals to be really hypnotic. This was then backed with Sunset. The infusion between the two was hardly noticeable. A trio of songs followed one after the other. First it was Night Time which sounded superb live. It was also really infectious. Dance track Swept Away came next and blended to that was Shelter which was quite something. “One thing that’s more scary than being on stage with a really weird song making is eye contact with your grandma. Half the people here are related to me” Sim joked before VCR. The crowd loved this number. VCR is about two people who express their love for each other by watching films on obsolete technology, shutting out the real world so they can create their own. I found this song to be both sweet and swooning. Islands was short and sharp, with lots going on despite its typically understated charm, and even contains the closest thing The Xx has produced to a hook, in the repeat refrain of “I am yours now…”. “And I want to say thank you to all of you because we wouldn’t be here without you. So thank you so much” Romy said before they ended with Infinity. Nearing the end of this tune the backdrop rose to reveal a massive X. Moments later they all returned for an encore. First up was Intro/ Tides. Now Tides was a short track whick both Madley Croft and Sim sang. “Thank you all so much for supporting us and still being here” Oliver said before they left the crowd with Stars.

SET LIST

Angels
Heart Skipped A Beat
Chained
Fiction
Crystalised
Fantasy
Missing
Reunion
Sunset
Night Time
Swept Away
Shelter
VCR
Islands
Infinity

ENCORE

Intro/ Tides
Stars

OVERALL: You could of seen this gig being an album launch for Coexist as they both fell on the same day. Whereas I was surprised with the fact people turned up around 6 I was left rather impressed by The Xx. I even liked the support act which is saying something.

As for The Xx basically they have hit the nail on the head and produced a sophomore album which is better than the first. What I liked about the set was the fact the material was a mixture of both new and old.

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