The first time I saw The xx perform live was in Singapore back in 2010, where it played in a double bill with Florence + The Machine.
At the time, the British band – comprising Romy Madley Croft (vocals, lead guitar), Oliver Sim (vocals, bass guitar), and Jamie Smith, also known as Jamie xx (beats, MPC sampler) – only had its 2010 Mercury Award-winning self-titled album under its belt, and their set, while entertaining, seemed a little sparce.
My review described that show as “dark, moody and intense” and “a little monotonous towards the end due to the lack of crowd interaction”.
I also remember thinking at the time that it would be great to see the band again, once they’ve had a few more years of experience touring and a couple more albums under their belt.
Well, my wish came true last Thursday (Jan 25) when The xx played its first show in Kuala Lumpur at the Malaysian International Trade and Exhibition Center (MITEC).
Presented by Upfront Arena, it was part of the band’s I See You Tour Asia to promote its third and latest album, I See You, the follow-up to 2012’s Coexist.
The additional years of experience, as well as the increased number of songs at its disposal, have certainly pushed the band into the right direction. Far from the band I remembered watching in Singapore. There, the trio was slightly awkward and withdrawn; here, they exuded a warmth and confidence that could only have come from having a lot more experience.
Coming on at 9pm sharp after the opening act (Malaysian indie pop duo Pastel Lite), the trio opened with, what else, the instrumental Intro from its debut album. Because, when you’ve got a great introduction song like Intro, why would you want to open your shows with any other track, right?
That was followed with the popular Crystalised which got the concert to a great start, as it showcased the uniqueness of Croft and Sim’s vocals perfectly.
The contrast between Sim’s deep male baritone and Croft’s calm female tones have always been the most striking element of The xx’s music for me. Both voices standout well enough on their own, evident during solo vocal performances by Croft on Performance and Sims on Fiction.
But together, the contrast and harmony of their voices make for a lush, haunting, and bewitching combination that sounds even better live, especially combined with Jamie xx’s wizardry on the decks.
The band played a total of 18 songs from its three albums, including On Hold, VCR, Heart Skipped A Beat, Say Something Loving, among others. The band even managed to include a Jamie xx song (Loud Places) at the very end, before closing with the tender Angels.
“All we ask is that you see this as an opportunity to leave anything causing you pain at home, and just enjoy yourselves here,” Sims said in a rare talkative moment during the show.
And enjoy ourselves we did. For this writer, it was definitely a joy to how those three awkward teenagers from 2010’s Singapore show have grown into the accomplished, confident musicians we saw in last week’s show.