Walking along Brighton seafront, past Steak on Sea and a few other shops with names to make you smile (and not know why), you come to The Brighton Centre. Inside, I’m reminded of the London Roundhouse and it’s just as vast.
The standing area fills up early on, and the crowd is remarkably diverse – members of all ages and, judging by the way some dress, of all interests, too.
A white sheet hides Romy, Oliver and Jamie aka THE XX from the crowd. A huge cheer comes up from the audience who take this as a tension-builder, although it seems rather to reflect the somewhat shy nature of the band. Once the sheet comes down, there are screams from the crowd including a loud, “I love you, Oliver!” who replies, “You’re not so bad yourself!”
To start with, the songs are beautiful and quite slow tempo; there really isn’t much for the audience to do but stand and watch. There is very little light in the crowd, and not much on stage either – with the music, this feels like a gothic dream. Action on stage is relaxed – and for a photographer, a little disappointing – until Romy and Oliver, friends since early childhood, meet in the middle of the stage and sing to each other. The atmosphere is electric, especially with the songs’ theme of relationships, and the performance is very reserved, which only serves to make the band more intriguing.
As the set progresses, the music becomes a little faster in tempo, and the fact that the crowd does not seem to move doesn’t look out of place… they all look far away in their minds.
This isn’t so much a band to ‘watch’ as to ‘gaze at,’ while in your own little mysterious reverie, perhaps. For the fans, this show was everything to be expected, but for newcomers such as myself, I’d recommend getting more familiar with their music to be granted the full impact of the xx live experience.