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The xx at the O2, Dublin on June 26th 2013

The xx played at The O2 on Wednesday night, continuing on from the massive success of 2009’s Mercury prize-winning début ‘xx’, and the equally successful follow-up ‘Coexist’. This current tour sees the band playing to bigger venues, and a respectable crowd has turned out to see if the band can move on from their much maligned early shows, and into the arena-sized spaces.

Jagwar Ma are the first of tonight’s two support acts, whose performance features heavy, repetitive dance beats and heavily distorted vocals. The vocals merely have the effect of adding another layer of vague noise to an already saturated background, overall a drab and uninspiring effect. Mount Kimbie are slightly dreamier and almost exclusively instrumental, again without any catchy hooks or riffs to grab the listener. Both acts are reminiscent of Jamie Smith’s solo work, and neither is remotely similar to The XX’s style. To the right audience in the right venue there is no doubt that both bands would have impressed, but their sound tonight is swallowed up in the massive surroundings of the O2.

The XX begin with the distinctive bendy riff of Try in what is a gentle opener. The accompanying light show is immediately striking, greatly contributing to the overall atmosphere throughout the night. Crystalised is an assured performance that settles both the crowd and the band into the gig. They then proceed to play several songs from ‘Coexist’, and it is here their performance starts to lose focus. Smith, with his array of gadgets sprawled across the stage controls the songs with his DJ-ing skills, but they come across as slightly self-indulgent, with techno beats featuring heavily. Much of the mid-set passes in a melancholic blur, with the layered, ambient atmosphere punctured occasionally by a guitar solo, or a slightly more intense percussion section. At times, particularly on Shelter, the band sound like they are playing remixes of their own songs. It is clear Smith is having a much greater influence these days than on the band’s first album, and the songs – in the live setting at any rate – suffer as a result

The band pull it together towards the end of the show. VCR marks the return of tracks from the first album, and they are highly impressive. Islands is fantastic – played slightly faster than on record, it ripples with a powerful energy, and is greeted with a huge response by the crowd. Infinity, though, is the highlight of the set, and the track is astounding live. Starting slowly, the song features a wonderfully catchy chorus before building up into a fantastic crescendo. The percussion contributes to the power of the song brilliantly, and the lights climax by spelling out a large X. The band return for the encore with a sped up Intro, before the peaceful and tender Angels closes the set. The xx, then, manage to both frustrate and delight in equal measure, with a large part of the show being insipid and uninspiring, but with several exceptional songs more than making up for it.

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Photos: Aaron Corr