THE XX, Brixton Academy – Evening Standard, 9 March 2017

 

As if a seven night stint at one of London’s largest venues wasn’t impressive enough, The xx’s hometown comeback could also stake a claim to be the first music festival of the season.

Night + Day is an impeccably curated week of shows that includes different support acts every evening, club nights and cinema screenings elsewhere, a radio show and involvement with several local charities. “Every show matters, but this show means the world to us,” said bassist and co-vocalist Oliver Sim.

It was a triumph from a band who seem finally to have found a way to cope with the heated reaction that their ghostly, still music brings. They’re a trio who tried to hide as they grew, awkward in interviews, always in black, with that lower case, almost redacted band name. They seemed to have painted themselves into a  gloomy corner by album two, Coexist, in 2012 – even quieter, even more minimal – but then their producer Jamie Smith made a colourful, rave-influenced solo album that showed a way forward.

Smith drummed and pecked at samplers on a raised platform here, introducing a thumping house beat and high synth blips to old song Shelter. Sim still moved like someone standing in a swimming pool, long slow strides, but there was bright life in material from their new third album, such as On Hold, with its stuttering vocal samples, and the sampled horn fanfares of Dangerous.

Guitarist and fellow singer Romy Madley Croft offered soft vocals, charmingly shy between-song conversation and a remarkable honesty on new song Brave For You, addressed to her late parents.

A stunning stage design could have been another distraction technique for the reticent performers – revolving floor-to-ceiling mirrors that made the whole room seem to spin – but the ovation they earned at the end was all their own, and richly deserved.

 

Until March 15, O2 Academy Brixton, SW9 (0844 477 2000, o2academybrixton.co.uk)

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