Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Review: The xx, Waterfront Hall, Belfast

Mood-altering tunes give crowd a brooding treat

The minimalist, Germanic surroundings of the Waterfront Hall suited the Belfast debut by London indie trio the xx last night.

The band's clinical, stripped-down sound fizzed around the stark, white expanse of the auditorium.

Vocalist-guitarist Romy Madley Croft, vocalist-bassist Oliver Sim and multi-instrumentalist Jamie Smith delivered an hour-and-a-quarter of tunes that defy categorisation.

You can use words like epic, haunting and intense, but it was delicate, soft and intimate as well.

Drawing the set — which was admittedly rather brief considering the £26.50 ticket price — from 2009's self-titled debut album and last year's follow-up, Coexist, the Jools Holland-approved Mercury Prize-winners captivated the audience.

The brooding music was complemented by the threesome's attire, uniformly black, while a rhythmic laser show pulsated around them.

As much effort seemed to have gone into the presentation as the music, and whether that's a good or bad thing is a matter of opinion.

But it appeared to be a rare case of style and substance being present in equal measure. And often, it was the spaces between the sounds that made the most impact — what the xx weren't playing rather than what they were. Simply a masterful manipulation of mood.

ANDREW JOHNSTON

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