The xx, Auckland NZ, 2018

The xx
11th January 2018
Trusts Arena, Auckland, New Zealand.

Review by Sarah Kidd. Photography by Doug Peters.

The xx performing live in Auckland, New Zealand 2017. Image by Doug Peters.

As a blanket of clammy humidity settled in for the early evening like an old flat mate bunking down for a night on the couch, fans of The xx waved tickets and hands in front of their faces in the vain attempt to generate even the smallest of breezes. It was unsurprising then that once through the gates the lines for the bar were already backing up while those under the drinking age took advantage of the ice cold treats on offer from the food vendors. Tonight’s performance at the Trusts Stadium in Auckland is not only an all-ages show; it is – more importantly – supporting a fantastic local charity; the members of The xx choosing Rainbow Youth to receive a nominated amount from each ticket sold.

Garnering some relief from the heat outside, fans began to gather in front of the barrier in preparation for what promises to be a very special night. Returning to New Zealand for the first time in eight years after a jaw dropping set at Laneway the anticipation is hanging thick in the air. Soon the lights dimmed and a blueish haze draped itself across the stage as four musicians dressed in black quietly made their way out. Softened spotlights shone upon their faces and opened the door for their shadows to play support on the left wall. Fazerdaze is a name known to many in New Zealand, and in fact thanks to some recent tours across both the UK and US (as well as a few other places) it is a name that is quickly gaining traction. The moniker of Amelia Murray, New Zealand’s own indie deity, it is the ideal choice as opener for the night.

While subtle and rather static in stage presence, the music of Fazerdaze shines; Murrays voice and composition drawing people in and then holding them there with her ‘open-thought’ lyrics “I like the way you talk about yourself, as if you’re someone else / have I misread the way I feel about you.” Having recently released her album Morningside, the audience tonight are treated to several tracks from it including opener for the set ‘Half-Figured’, ‘Bedroom Talks’ and the very Pixies styled ‘Friends’. Little is said in between the songs, Murray pausing briefly to thank The xx who “inspired her with this project” and to rather self-consciously remind people of who they were listening to – which frankly just made her all the more endearing. While Murray can undoubtedly hold the stage on her own – armed with a guitar her music is certainly her staff of power – the band consisting of the standard drums, bass and keys combo (the latter swapping out for a guitar periodically) brought an extra melodic richness to the tracks. Finishing with ‘Lucky Girl’ and ‘Little Uneasy’ Fazerdaze certainly proved why she should be immediately added to a discerning fans summer playlist.

Shuffling feet soon took on a restless edge as the start time for The xx came and went, with the crowd now almost at capacity the heat from the mass of bodies started to feel ever so slightly like prickles on the skin. But any slight discomforts were shoved unceremoniously to the wayside as the venue was plunged into darkness and spotlights illuminated Jamie xx inside his glass and mirror structure of decks, synths and drums. From here he began the beat that both bassist Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft would stride out in time to; Croft wordlessly marching straight to the very front edge of the stage, the fans cheering deliriously at having their beloved so close to them so soon.

‘Intro’ is a completely instrumental piece from their first album xx released back in 2009, yet tonight it spoke volumes. As Sim and Croft moved about each other with effortless grace, they spun invisible threads of love, respect and integrity, the tendrils of which reached out and connected to the audience, as if creating neural pathways to the duo’s inner most emotions. In all honesty that is how it feels to be at an The xx concert, the trio somehow creating the most intimate experience despite the fact that there are thousands of people in the room.

Having being friends since early childhood Sims and Croft have a relationship quite unlike most others, a shared affinity that only they can understand but that can be felt by all who are fortunate enough to share the same space as them. Enraptured, the fans hung on each and every word of ‘Crystalised’, Crofts vocals breathy perfection. Moving into ‘Say Something Loving’ and it was the turn of Sims to prove that not only is he easily the most mesmeric bassist on the circuit today but his voice (despite recently giving up smoking – a fact he later admitted made him feel like he was going through puberty again) is just as awe-inspiring as Crofts; the song itself like peeking in on a desperate hushed conversation between two lovers, the stage bathed in appropriate blushed pinks. Following a shorter rendition of ‘Dangerous’ the stunning opening track from their latest album I See You and a wonderful rendition of ‘I Dare You’ again from their latest release, Croft stepped forward to address the audience, her black satin jacket encasing her in a softness that matched her tender voice. “Good evening, honestly it’s a dream to be in your beautiful country … it really is. This next song is dedicated to anyone who finds it hard to show how they really feel … I know I do …”

What came next will long be burned into the memories of all who were present; a single spotlight falling upon Croft as she sang ‘Performance’. You could have heard a pin drop as her words sailed out towards the fans and they plucked them from the air for safekeeping. Upon its conclusion, Croft stepped backwards, her head bowed; Sims running towards her and taking her face in his hands he beamed at her with a smile so full of affection that it was palpable. Turning her head slightly to the side he kissed her cheek. This one completely unscripted, spontaneous moment summed up not only the relationship between both Sim and Croft but the feelings of the fans in respect to the band; their music, their words often feeling like something that is shared only between those who are close to each other.

Continuing to move through a collection of tracks that predominantly came from both their latest album and their first it was hard to tear your eyes away from the duo who utterly owned the stage. However if you did you quickly found yourself watching in wonderment the human equivalent of a musical machine. Jaime xx is the third member of The xx and while he may remain vocally silent, he makes himself well and truly heard with his hypnotic bassy beats, flawlessly timed synths and live drumming. Therefore it was nice to see the trio perform his single ‘Loud Places’ towards the end of the night, Croft providing the vocals to the track while the stage was lit with rainbow colours. The vibe of the song was so uplifting that Sims could not help but smile widely as he once again brushed Crofts face with his hands. Walking slowly backwards he suddenly stops – these mini freeze frames often feature throughout the performance adding yet another intriguing element to the show – before running back up to Croft and almost engulfing her with his obvious joy, the fans loving every second of it as they cheered loudly.

Before delivering their final song of the evening Croft attempted to thank the audience but was instead almost brought to tears as the fans continued to applaud them. “I was already speechless, and now … well I’m speechless!” Croft smiled shyly. “We appreciate each and every one of you. We see you. We love you, and we’ll hopefully see you again soon.” Let’s hope we do because performances such as this are that rare soul food that each and every human being needs in their life.

The xx:
Fazerdaze:

Were you there at the Trusts Arena for this absolutely brilliant pop show? Or have you seen The xx perform live somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Setlist:

  1. Intro
  2. Crystalised
  3. Say Something Loving
  4. Islands
  5. Lips
  6. Dangerous
  7. I Dare You
  8. Performance
  9. Infinity
  10. A Violent Noise
  11. Chained
  12. VCR
  13. Fiction
  14. Shelter
  15. Loud Places [Jaime xx feat Romy Madley Croft]
  16. On Hold
  17. Angels

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