THE XX | LIVE REVIEW
THE XX | LIVE REVIEW
Motorpoint Arena Cardiff, Fri 17 Mar
Four and a half years ago, just a day after releasing their sophomore album Coexist, The xx played to a sold-out Coal Exchange prior to embarking on a huge European tour. Whilst their appearance in the Welsh capital may have been a surprise to many, it was something of a favour repaid to the organisers of the Sŵn festival. Back in 2009, The xx were booked to play Sŵn that autumn but hype surrounding their debut caused their popularity to explode and they were whisked away from under the organiser’s noses late in the day. But a promise was made that they would return, and the promise was kept.
And now they’re back. A couple of months have passed since the band’s third album I See You and rather than playing a 1,000-capacity venue, they’ve raised their game and returned to the 7,000-capacity Motorpoint Arena to perform to a highly expectant crowd. This was a huge scalp for Sound Nation (working in conjunction with promotion behemoth SJM Concerts) and the show sold out almost as quickly as the Coal Exchange did several years earlier. The place is buzzing.
The refrain from the Alessi Brothers’ Do You Feel It? signals the band’s entrance to the stage and one of the stand-out tracks from the latest album Say Something Loving opens the show to screams from an ecstatic – and diverse – audience. Followed by Crystallised and Islands, the set is already heading the way of a greatest hits package; quite the feat for a band that has only put out three records in a decade or so. Given the somewhat downbeat nature of their music, Romy, Oliver and Jamie move around a fair bit when they need to – making the most of the size of the stage that they occupy.
It may not come as a surprise to the regular Cardiff gig-goer that there is an awful lot of noise from the crowd when the more ballad-esque songs come into play. It doesn’t help that the queues to the woeful bar areas at Motorpoint are stretching back to the backs of the hall and there is shuffling aplenty when some of the mid-table offerings are played. Things do, however, get back on track with the burst of energy that is Dangerous (that must be one of Jamie’s surely?) and cameraphones are thrust back into the air with vigour.
This visit to Cardiff comes after a seven-night sold out residency at Brixton’s O2 Academy which was peppered with guest appearances and surprises aplenty. Whilst there is nothing approaching that tonight (and a few hairy moments of sports-hall reverb threatening to throw things off course – a Motorpoint staple), the crowd seem happy with their lot. With lead single off the new record On Hold and firm favourite Angels opening and closing the encore respectively, the fans slip off into a stormy, wet Cardiff night happy to wait another four years until they can do it all again.
words BEN GALLIVAN photos SIMON AYRE