The xx
2 August 2013
The Star Performing Arts Centre
by Melissa Ng

The xx played to a very enthusiastic crowd last Friday at The Star Theatre at The Star Vista, which was packed to the brim. Besides playing to 5000 fans, there was also an additional show on Thursday because of the demand. This response just goes to show how popular indie is growing as a genre. This is a remarkable feat for the band, whose last performance in Singapore in 2010 saw them open for Florence + The Machine. Having released two albums, xx and Coexist, the band certainly had more to play around with this time.

The xx definitely did not fall short of fans’ expectations when it came to the length of their set, which lasted long enough for the band to play almost every song from both of their albums. They played a total of 17 songs, opening with Try from Coexist. It was such a treat to see the chemistry within the band, as they were clearly well-rehearsed, very familiar with each other, and the harmony within the band was evident. Romy (vocals, guitar) and Oliver (vocals, bass) constantly played off each other, and their voices were enchanting, especially when one joined in with the other, adding layers with their voices and instruments, creating a mesmerizing effect. It was enthralling to watch their music come to live in front of my eyes, as I could see the layers and effort that went into creating the music that I had listened to for so long and often.

However, there really was not much difference between the live version of their songs and the album version, and it often felt like we were simply at a listening party for their albums. With a live concert, there were definitely opportunities for the band to up the ante with their music and create more sounds and textures, or perhaps even add in more beats to get the audience moving. But it fell a little flat as the band simply reproduced what was on their albums. Even Jamie, the beat whiz driving the band, simply stuck to the beats and percussion he made on the album, without any changes at all, which was surprising considering his innovation when it came to his DJ-ing. The band also did not bother with much audience interaction, with Jamie not even acknowledging the audience throughout the concert, choosing to let their music speak for itself. But it was good of Romy and Oliver to acknowledge their Singaporean fans and the overwhelming response they got from them.

The band definitely could do no wrong with this audience, as their fans screamed and cheered for them till the end, with Oliver eliciting lots of screams from both girls and boys as he slid around with his bass sexily. With such atmospheric and textured music, the lighting was definitely important, and the lighting design did work well and match up to the music. Arriving at the theatre, the sheer number and presence of moving lights already made an impression. With strobe lighting and lasers added during songs like “Night Time”, “Shelter”, “Infinity”, “Intro” and “Angels”, the atmosphere and excitement was certainly heightened. Throughout the concert, it felt as if the audience (myself included) was on the brink of breaking out into dancing, but couldn’t quite do so because each time the music was about to move faster, the tempo decreased, the songs ended, or the music simply dropped before it could transcend to another level. This was made especially plain when the band played “Intro”. To put it simply, the entire concert felt like a cock tease. The xx clearly demonstrated their ability to reproduce their albums to the note and beat, which seemed enough to satisfy the audience, but I went away feeling slightly disappointed, though still very much in love with their music.

A note on the after-party: Jamie xx played at Secret Service, also known as The Vault, which can hardly hold 200 people, let alone 500 people from The xx concert (excluding their usual patrons). It was a terrible venue for an after party simply because of its size, and only served to infuriate both xx concert-goers and the usual patrons of The Vault. Considering the venue does not have an entertainment licence – the reason why the venue is named “Secret Service” but actually “The Vault” – it was definitely unwise to have the after-party there. But Jamie xx played an enjoyable set, and his music did much to calm tensions in the venue.

Kudos to Now/Live for bringing The xx in and allowing the fans to have such an experience. This review is made possible by Now/Live.