The xx has been touring since the start of the year, and appears to have no plans of slowing down after their performance at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Friday (May 24). With nearly 40 more stops across North America, Asia, and Europe before the trio—made of up Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim, and Jamie Smith—are able to settle back at home in London, England, Friday night’s performance was electric, but as if the band was pacing themselves for the next few months.
Following openers Hundred Waters, the trio took to the stage around 15 minutes past their scheduled set time. Things didn’t exactly start off with a bang—although there were plenty of rotating glaring lights and the snaky siren-like backdrop of opening number “Try” from 2012’s Coexist to wake the audience up. The xx followed up the subdued opener with the slightly more upbeat “Heart Skipped Beat”, complete with a perfectly timed pulsing light show. While Madley Croft’s vocals were clear and on point right from the get-go, Sim’s soothing tenor sounded restrained and took several songs to warm up.
By the time they reached “Crystalized”, from the band’s 2009 debut, the crowd immediately recognized Madley-Croft’s opening plucky guitar riff and produced some of the night’s largest cheers. Later on, about midway through the show, a dance-remix rendition of other popular single “Shelter”, thanks to Smith’s wicked producing, was one of several highlights during the show.
Despite fans being most familiar with songs off the xx’s first album, they took this opportunity to play mostly from their second. “Reunion” with its early ‘90s club beat and happy marimba was purely infectious. Sim lost his bass for “Fiction” and we got to see him handle the spotlight on vocals, but it was when he dueted with Madley Croft that sparks flew on stage. During the understated “Sunset” and “Missing”, you could feel the strong chemistry the two had on stage, especially when they would turn away from their mics, face each other, and play their instruments at each other—almost forgetting their was an audience watching them.
The band knew to save their three most electrifying songs for the end. Right before the encore, “Infinity”, with its wailing guitar and Spanish castanet sound (in a total Chris Isaak “Wicked Game” sort of way) was intense and seductive. Then after a minute off stage, the trio came back to knock the instrumental-only “Intro” from their first album out of the park.
Ending the night with the ethereal “Angels” was, it seemed, exactly what the audience wanted. Singing along to Madley Croft’s gentle “in love with you as I am” lyrics ended the show on a special, lullaby-like tone. The simple laser “X” framing the band as they took their bows echoed the xx’s songwriting and performance mantra: minimalist but powerful.