Three as one: The xx here pictured at an earlier gig.
The Domain, January 20
Everything is entwined with The xx; nothing happens alone or without consequence. It’s why they, and this gig, are so very good
Like the way Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft circle each other on stage: sometimes playing to each other; sometimes mimicking the other’s move; always aligned in some way, as if tethered, even when facing us and holding position on either side of the set.
Or the way Jamie Smith, while physically separated above and behind, both fills the spaces left by the minimalist sounds of the bass and guitar – with electronic and live percussion, keyboards, samples - yet seems to leave the same kind of space Sim and Madley Croft do.
Then there’s the way the stage design’s collection of revolving pillars of glass and light, reflect, then twist, then illuminate (then repeat) – much in the way the interpersonal tales within each song shift in explanation and meaning while never losing the essence of emotional frankness.
Consider too, the way the trio’s sonic blend of Cure-like (instrumental as much as tonal) isolation, Portishead-ish intensity and a very European take on R&B’s appeal to the hips somehow elaborates into a whole-body experience.
And most of all - best of all - the way Sim and Madley Croft’s voices work as Yin and Yang, high and low, he said/she said, that nonetheless is always a kind of externalised internal dialogue, a single, truthful, entity created out of sensitivity and sensuality.
For sensuality defines The xx. This was true long before last year’s album, I See You, but that record, which provided almost half the setlist (interestingly, their second album, Coexist, was relatively barely touched) and contributed more than half the sexiness with its liquid rhythms and languid delivery combining and demanding a quite physical response.
The final element in a gig which rode the still, sticky air with ease and pleasure – so much pleasure - was in fact the “performance”. Given these are three people who on their first shows in Australia – when they were barely out of their teens as Sim reminded us at one point – could barely say boo to the Laneways crowd, there is almost startling showmanship about The xx now.
But it is not really showmanship so much as the comfort of their private collaboration now extending to the wider relationship with us. For we are part of the exchange now, entangled happily. Entwined.