Tonight’s Tripod show is the last of what’s been an incredible and eventful year for South London’s The XX. The band released their self titled debut to critical acclaim, have played a string of sold out shows (tonight’s venue was upgraded due to demand) and recently lost a member when keyboardist Baria Qureshi left the band last month, citing exhaustion. The show is somewhat a celebration of the year and the three remaining band members Romy Madley-Croft on vocals and guitar, Oliver Sim on vocals and bass, and Jamie Smith on percussion and programming – walk out from the darkness to a warm reception from the capacity crowd.
The XX are the perfect band to see on a chilly December evening. The album is a slow paced but atmospheric and as expansive as the winter sky. Rather than bombarding the listener, the band ensured that every note mattered, every pause was intentional and every half-whisper was laden with emotional impact. Meanwhile, the lonely guitar lines that hold the music together ring out from the darkness, perfectly evocative of a city late at night.
Everything about the band is minimalist, not just the music, but the whole live show. They dress in all black and have a very simple stage set up too, just them and their bright XX lights that adorn the back of the stage. The open as they do on the album with ‘Intro’, the staccato guitar notes and keyboard line getting heads nodding in the crowd. The band continue to play through album favourites from their XX debut including; ‘VCR’, ‘Crystalised’, and also a cover of the 80’s hit ‘Teardrops’ by Womack and Womack. Their stage presence can be a little empty but from the very moment their music began, that is all that matters.
Without Qureshi, the trio has to multitask onstage to create their intricate sound; Jamie Smith in particular is impressive in creating the loops and dreamy soundscapes. Female vocalist Romy Croft slots wonderfully into place to contrast Sim’s tonal mutterings, never outplaying him and always complimenting their one-two vocal patterns. While some songs are identical to the album version songs like ‘Fantasy’ and ‘Shelter’ are a lot stronger when experienced live. Uniquely all of the instruments rarely assault us at once, and in this lies the beauty of their music. Although each song is received rapturously, none have a drastically varied sound from each other, the band’s live show would definitely be bolstered with a bit of variety on their second album. Despite this it’s a triumphant show from The XX and a lesson in the art of less-is-more.