The xx are a brilliant and transcendent fusion of the eerie and the sitting room.
Their live show at Somerset House brought together all the disparate elements that have made for such a successful year with maximum élan – the synth beats and dub, the uplifting guitar riffs, plaintive lyrics in heartfelt voices and, of course, a stage presence that recalls the very best of high-school shoegaze.
Opening with the first track from their album – helpfully entitled "Intro", and instantly recognisable as the backing music for a hundred TV trailers, not to mention the BBC's election coverage – The xx launched their distinctly minimal and sober set, which encompassed everyone's favourites (the joy of seeing a band with only one album to their name!) without seeming to pander. With their monochrome look and an abundance of dry ice, not to mention those twangy guitar reverbs which summon to mind (only whisper it) Chris Isaak, their performance was thrilling and moving in a way that lacked artifice. It was just as easy to imagine oneself bouncing along to the songs in the car, as it was to picture them blasting out across an empty post-apocalyptic landscape.
Playing an album in sequence is always a potentially risky move, but it was a nose-thumb to those who accuse The xx of relying too much on the same sound: that sound works especially well live, as it ebbs and flows between catchy choruses and soulful lulls. It was indicative of the band's hold over their audience that fans did not appear to mind them playing slightly slower versions of each tune, with drawn-out instrumentals and warp segments from producer Jamie Smith.
While volume may have reached uncomfortable levels for the uninitiated, the stomach-flipping bass and heart-bending grinds marked The xx out as truly innovative noise specialists. If that sounds daft, well – tough: their gig had the very real feeling of seeing a relatively young band just before they become absolutely stellar.Reuse content