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Concert Review: The xx at Express LIVE!

May 7, 2017

 

An outdoor concert in Ohio is always a bit of a risky proposition, even during the summer months, and Friday night at Express LIVE!, the xx brought some of the finest English weather with them to Columbus, but the gamble was still worth it. The temperature was a balmy 40 degrees and the ever-present light mist throughout the evening served as a reminder that things could always get worse. At least is wasn’t freezing, right? Despite the miserable conditions, the xx gave those who braved the conditions a heartfelt set. They addressed the crowd intermittently to thank them for turning out despite the weather (and many did turn out), to relate an anecdote from their last trip to Columbus, or to note an especially personal connection to a song, but they mostly let their sublime lyrics speak for them.

 

The xx opened the show with the relatively mellow, “Say Something Loving,” from their new album I See You, which was released in January. It was an interesting choice to open with such a mellow track, rather than with something more upbeat, such as the flashier, “Dangerous,” (also from 2017’s I See You) to showcase the slightly more accessible sound on the new album. However, the choice of the quieter song was appropriate, as they immediately followed up with the 2009 standouts, “Crystalised,” and “Islands,” both from the xx’s sparse debut album, xx, before returning to the fuller sound of I See You with “I Dare You.” The xx slowly built the set, seamlessly integrating favorites from their previous, more austere albums (the 2009 debut xx and the 2012 follow-up Coexist) with the robust sounds of I See You.

 

The set crescendoed to, “Dangerous,” followed by, “Fiction,” both highlights on the new album, before turning much softer and more introspective with, “Shelter,” a song that was performed solely by Romy Madley Croft, who told the crowd that it was a deeply personal song for her. The sense of loss that pervades this song thematically complemented the band’s final song, “Loud Places,” from Jamie xx’s solo album In Colour (but I’m not prepared to call it a cover since it always featured Croft.)

 

When it became clear that this was the close of the set, I realized the xx had just left the stage before performing their current single, “On Hold.” Many in the audience had just stood in the frigid rain for over an hour to hear this song, and the band was leaving the stage. Mercifully, the pause for the audience to beg for an encore was perfunctory, and the band quickly returned to give the people the new single, and followed it up with the hugely popular instrumental, “Intro.” The show ended with the elegiac, “Angels,” leaving me feeling a little tranquil, a little in love, love, love, and a lot soggy.

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