Review: The xx at The Domain, Sydney, 20 January 2018
The xx delivered an enchanting performance in The Domain last night, with perfectly curated support acts coming together for an evening of smooth, stripped-back electronica.
The whole evening was laced with great melancholy – all acts played songs about love, loss and lust – littered with moments of optimism and movement, and complimented by a beautiful lighting display under the Sydney stars.
Kučka (pronounced Cooch-ka) started the night perfectly with her mix of dreamy and dance-able electronica. The young producer/singer from Perth led with downbeat, jilted tracks and vocals in a soft, high register harkening to the likes of Grimes and Aurora.
With impressive production elements akin to Flume (whom she worked with on his second album), her set was a clever mix of slow, brooding songs and upbeat bangers, ending on the Cosmo’s Midnight banger ‘Walk With Me’. Her future-pop left the audience even more hungry and excited for what the night was to bring.
The second act, Kelela, was so impressive she nearly stole the limelight from The xx. With a soulful style reminiscent of Frank Ocean, Kelela performed with two backup singers and a dj, altogether creating a style that was less electronic and more soul-focused than KUČKA provided.
From song one, the group floored the audience with whirlwind harmonies that swelled and layered themselves to some impressive crescendos, only to pull themselves back down to a calm, downbeat tempo and roll to a satisfying stop. Kelela’s stage presence was powerful, charged and enamouring.
The group had no lights display, no effects, no overly extravagant stage antics – none were needed. Kelela’s incredible voice. supported further by incredible backing vocals, made every song captivating and moving.
As Kelela and her group drew to a close, the crowd packed themselves in as the promise of the main attraction grew closer. While the support acts had very simple stage set ups, The xx revealed a modern and sleek stage design, with layers of perspex and spinning, mirrored monoliths reflecting brilliant light all throughout The Domain.
They launched into the opening track from their first album, appropriately titled ‘Intro’ which let everyone know this night was going to be a great mix of old and new, as they proceeded to play hit after hit from their three album catalogue.
Rather than overwhelming the audience with thick layers and wild vocals for emotional weight, The xx use a now-trademark sound of sparse indie-pop which reads incredibly well in a live performance, creating tension and beauty within moments of silence.
This aspect of their songwriting was even more powerful live, as a captive audience often lay silent in the quieter moments of their songs, hanging on the end of Oliver’s or Romy’s every word.
The band were also surprisingly energetic given the sonic stylings of their music – all three members were as animated as could possibly be, even during the slower, calmer songs.
The middle of their set started to slouch somewhat, as it hit a chunk of their more downbeat songs, the emotional weight of which started to lose effect and blend into one. But, just as the pain in your lower back made you wish you’d worn better shoes, the band balanced the mood back out with a surge of uplifting numbers that reinvigorated a tiring crowd.
Perhaps the best and most entertaining example of this was right before the encore song, where, rather than all members walking off stage for five minutes, Jamie xx jumped from drums to the forefront and played an absolutely killer solo DJ set while Romy and Oliver waited in the wings. This was a welcome change of tempo, and lead well to the fitting closer, ‘VCR’.
The band’s gratitude for the support of their Australian fans was a heartfelt compliment to an already great show. After three albums, The xx have been able to prove that their songs continue to blend interesting hooks and stirring emotion to last the test of time.
Thanks to an engaging stage presence, a great and varied setlist and a fantastic support lineup, The xx made the last of their Australian shows a spectacular one.