Live Review: The xx

18 January 2018 | 10:50 am | Jack Doonar

"It's been over five years since we've played in Brisbane. We fucked this one up a few weeks ago, hopefully we don't for you."

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Brisbane's beloved Riverstage is teaming with music lovers young and old, bracing a balmy Wednesday evening to catch one of Britain's most popular recent musical exports The xx on their I See You album world tour. While most claim spots on the grassy hill during the support acts, there's a supportive roar as rushing teenagers scramble down front to greet the alt-pop trio as they walk on stage.

Flanked by giant, metallic elongated mirrors rimmed with dazzling lights, guitarist and co-singer Romy Madley Croft leads a one-two punch from their debut album - Intro and Crystalised. The almost-tribal drumming and minimal, indie-rock soundscape evoke a soft singalong with some of the older fans in the audience, before Say Something Loving invites their newer fans to add their voices to the band's intoxicating male-female twin vocal duets.

Bassist and co-singer Oliver Sim introduces one of their earliest breakthrough singles with slight hesitation, "It's been over five years since we've played in Brisbane. We fucked this one up a few weeks ago, hopefully we don't for you." Luckily for us, Heart Skipped A Beat sounds as sweet as expected, with beatmaster Jamie Smith (aka Jamie xx) keeping busy balancing the layers of subtle percussion and charming keyboard refrains.

Diving back into their acclaimed third album I See You, The xx's signature twin vocals entwine like lovers' limbs and are beautifully showcased in Lips, followed a sublime medley of Dangerous and I Dare You. Smith reworks the driving electronic production into a goosebump-inducing piano ballad, providing Sim and Croft with ample room to conduct an intimate singalong with the adoring crowd.

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After the joyous rendition of their latest album's most popular songs, Croft steals the spotlight for a short-but-genuinely fragile rendition of Performance. However, those left entranced by the song's deep melancholy are quickly shaken awake by the crashing cymbals and sultry swagger of Infinity: an overlooked track from their debut album that builds and crashes with a fury of strobes and sonic haze.

A Violent Noise then provides Sim with his serenade to Brisbane, his strong voice soaring atop a fantastic sea of crumbling synthesisers and subtle guitar embellishments.

Bright lighting combines with the childish chimes of Smith's glockenspiel in VCR to induce a gentle rave that continues with slightly more vigour through Islands. These may be cuts from an album that's almost a decade old, but judging from the reception from fans both young and old they're timeless tracks.

Taking a moment to congratulate Australia's recent successful passing of same-sex marriage, Sim dedicates late-night floor-filler Fiction to a local LGBQIT+ foundation, before Shelter and Loud Places get some serious Jamie xx remix treatment.

Smith continues to lay down thunderous beats as Croft and Sim exit the stage, leaving him and the thousands of Brisbanites to revel in his infectious, atmospheric remix of On Hold. Walking back on stage to a roar from the crowd, Croft and Sim lead the night's loudest singalong to the song that helped reintroduce the band to millions the world over in late 2016.

Dedicating the night's final song to a five-year-old boy at the front of the mosh barrier, Croft once again steals the show with an inviting rendition of Angels, the song's lullaby effect tastefully split by Smith's inescapable percussion.

While The xx may have forged a loyal following with their unique brand of atmospheric pop and indie-rock with a depressive edge, most of the Wednesday night revellers leave Riverstage with beaming smiles while attempting their best a cappella versions of songs from tonight's setlist.