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The xx, jj (and nosaj thing) at Metropolis

In Gigs, London and the UK, Montréal, Worldwide on April 9, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Sooo. this is late, but I wanted to say a few things about this show anyway.

We got there a little late, only catching the end of the Nosaj Thing set, what I did see looked fun as hell, although not that many people were dancing.

Now, jj. When i bought my ticket for this show, I did so because of jj. Their first album, ‘jj no 2’ was a fantastic mix of swedish pop and calypso rhythms, and one of my favourites of last year. The great songs from that album like ‘Ecstasy’ and ‘From Africa to Malaga’ still held up live, in that they were still just as fun, and when played through the booming sound system at Metropolis they gave me a mighty urge to start jumping-the-hell around.

However, the problem with jj’s live set, is that it wasn’t all that live a set at all. Only one half of the duo, Elin Kastlander was on stage, and apart from a few acoustic guitar songs which began the set, the rest of the music was entirely played off a nearby laptop. Now, i understand that not everything can be played live all of the time, and Joakim Benon, the other half of the duo, couldn’t have handled all the instruments himself! However, I do think some of the more upbeat songs would triggered more of a reaction in the crowd if a full band had been playing them. As it was, the crowd, while very appreciative of the set, didn’t dance at all. To be fair, that could well have been the intention of the artist, their new album ‘jj no. 3’ is much more downtempo and glacial than the first, and Kastlander’s performance, standing still, draped in several shawls and scarves, in front video projections that played throughout, was much more reflective of the second album. Either way, the performance was not terrible by any means, but, considering they were the original reason I went to the show, a little disappointing.

Thankfully, The xx were the exact opposite; their performance was much better than i had expected. I’d got into the album in the week before the show, and I’ve been listening to it on repeat since then. The show began with a giant backlit projection of an X beamed onto a white sheet draped over the front of the stage. The band were then projected onto the same sheet, before bursting into their appropriately named ‘Intro’. The sheet fell at the end of the song and, without skipping a beat, we were straight into crowd favourite ‘Crystallised’. The first half of the show, then, was effectively a medley of their best/most popular songs, from ‘VCR’ to ‘Heart Skipped a Beat’. To be sure, The xx can be overly simple, and the second half of the show was not a patch on the first, in many ways it was boring, but that is not the charm of the band. Their appeal lies in way they sing in such a detached, yet evocative, manner about that foundation of rock’n’roll; sex.

On a warm summer’s day, this doesn’t translate well. However, The xx make music for the night. Either played quietly in your own bedroom at 2am in the morning, or blasting out of a huge venue PA, theirs is music for the night. Therefore the reason I fell for the band during their gig, was that I had never considered the latter; blasting the hell out of the record. It works. You can hear the decay of the bass underneath the almost bell-like sound of the guitar, while whispered come-on’s uttered by the singers become overtly sexual cries. The band are far more dynamic than I had given them credit for; again, the music is not great in its complexity or vibrancy, but it has a time and a place. I would never list the record as one of my favourites, but I am glad to have it in my collection for…moments.

And that is what this band are made for. They play music which will complement, not alter your mood. Awake at 2am? Well the album was recorded almost exclusively in night sessions. Post-coital silence? Their music is dependent upon that very silence. From bassist Oliver Sim’s serpent-like movements, to Romy Madley Croft’s statuesque isolation; The xx are a band for those quiet and secluded (physically or mentally) moments everyone experiences.

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