Sunday, 7 March 2010

xx @ Shepherds Bush Empire....

....Hot on the heels of supporting Florence at the same venue, the xx deservedly headlined the fantastic Empire. It was my first visit there and it has immediately risen to the top of my favourite gig venues. The sound was crystal clear and the setting decadent.

The anticipation of this gig for Ed and I was high, with the tickets booked long before christmas and both of us having already played the debut album to death. The subsequent hiatus in its listening made what was to follow, all the more special.

The xx are three spotty teenagers from Putney in London - Romy Madley Croft, (vocals), Oliver Sim, (bass), Jamie Smith, (keyboard/drums/synth). Their music seems not to define one particular genre, mixing Cure like beats, subtle R&B, with a beautiful, almost dreamy pop sentiment. They are unfussy, unglamorous, straightforward musicians and the set on Wednesday night echoed all of that.

As the 'Intro' track kicked in, their shadows appeared behind a taut white sheet. Sim's large, angular, yet static frame in contrast to Smith's manic hand tapping on the electric drums. It plays to their mystique perfectly, the crowd respond to the shadow representations, a growing fervour until the curtain drops, the band are revealed, (dressed in black as always), and Croft opens with 'Crystalised'.

It's an incredible opening and one that makes me instantly feel I am witnessing something special. As the band played out the majority of their album, Ed and I fuelled our enthusiasm with pint after pint of Guinness and the high remained.

The only curve ball the xx threw, was a typically slow, soulful cover of Womack & Womack's classic, 'Teardrop'. It brought a cheer from the crowd once more, as did an encore of album track 'Stars'. Perhaps though the largest cheer of the night followed that encore, as the intro to 'You've got the love', (originally by Candi Staton and recently triumphantly covered by Florence and the xx themselves), kicked in. But the band tantalisingly left the stage for good. They had completed their night's work, an incredible night's work and they knew all too well that this track was too well trodden and best left for the crowd to sing late in to the night.

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