Amongst a masterpiece of shadowplay, the XX kicked off the tour for their sophomore album, Coexist, in earnest on October 5, 2012 in Vancouver.
On record, The xx produce the warmest soundtrack for isolation, alienation, and loneliness yet heard. Live, they quixotically explore those themes further, but in the most compelling and reassuring manner.
This night was much more than a gig. There was such an element of the elements aligning on so many levels to make this evening so much more. The notes breathlessly lingered and flitted, without taunting or teasing, to splice other-worldliness with inner-worldliness, to carry us out of the darkness before carrying us back into it, a safer, more familiar place.
The staging was stark black juxtaposed when necessary with mostly white lighting that neither punctuated nor cut through, but rather complemented the still blackness. The presence of light slowly became more welcome as it frequented through the course of the proceedings, yet it never overwhelmed.
This night was a guided journey, where we navigated personal terrains together using a shared vernacular; audience and performer boldly and briefly explored these territories before retracting, not retreating, in unison to a place of reflection and incubation, where we prepared to unearth that much more of ourselves the next time the notes arched and the lights found a fissure through which to broach our collective darkness.
Starting with the deliciously understated “Angels,” the set burned deliberately and economically: no silence, sound, light, absence of light, action, or reaction was wasted. Weaving through carefully positioned touchstones like “Basic Space” and “Islands” before closing the set with a cathartic version of “Infinity,” the evening then could have blissfully ended.
However, the encore opener “Intro” reinforced both in title and cadence just how unrelenting this process, this progression into light, always is, yet it softly conveyed that somehow the journey would be easier this time.
After the final song of the encore, the enchanting “Stars,” bassist Oliver Sim reached for guitarist Romy Madley Croft’s hand, and they walked into the dimness backstage together, not alone: a simple, potent act with unnerving resonance, much like the evening itself.
Words by Chris “Gutter” Rose; Pictures by Adam Dymitruk