Photos by Neil Van.
Moments before The xx were supposed to hit the stage the lights went out and the music abruptly stopped. It could have just been a perfect mood setter for the band to walk out to, but looking around Echo Beach all the lights were off. Across the lakeshore the brightly lit BMO Field was plunged into darkness too. What could possibly have occurred to make this massive grid block go out? Before anyone could panic the power went right back on and the house DJ smartly threw on Drake’s Passionfruit and not the radio version, but the album one where the Moodymann narration plays “Hold on, hold on, fuck that. Fuck that shit. Hold on, I got to start this mothafuckin’ record over again, wait a minute. Fuck that shit. Still on this mothafuckin’ record. I’ma play this mothafucka for y’all. Ayy, y’all get some more drinks goin’ on, I’ll sound a whole lot better.” And everything was right again.
While the 1976’s Alessi Brothers song Do You Feel It? is mostly unknown, it is now widely recognized as the sample in The xx song Say Something Loving, a vocal sample so perfectly selected it will become immortal (and make the Alessi Brothers rich). The opening notes sung by bassist Oliver Sim elicited a huge cheer from the crowd, which made guitarist Romy Madley Croft smirk widely.
While The xx took a long time to release I See You, mostly because they needed a break from each other, their chemistry seemed stronger than ever. Sim and Croft stood face to face as the famous chords to Crystalised were played, as if the thousands of people in attendance were suddenly transported away and they were the only two there. Behind the duo was Jamie xx, the bands multi talented and multi instrumentalist banging away on a drum kit showing off one of the many ways he creates his iconic beats. During the breakdown of the song it was clear just how powerful the two vocalists voices are, even if they sing in what could be described best as a hushed and throaty whisper.
Sim joked around with the crowd about how long it had been since they last played in Toronto (their last stop was in 2013 also at Echo Beach) and how much they loved the city because of the always-positive reactions they get. Jamie xx had no where to hide on this tour as his gear was ensconced in glass boxes allowing everyone to see just how much work he puts into the shows. Every beat and sample is played live as he jumps between mixers, electronic drum pads, turntables, keyboards, drum machines and an actual drum kit. Even though his performance was visible for all to see, he still had the hood on his sweater pulled up tight covering most of his face reminding the crowd it’s all about the music for him.
The set was mostly songs from their latest album that came out in January (an early contender for one of the top albums of the year on Live in Limbo) with a good mix of songs from both 2009’s xx and 2012’s Coexist. On VCR from xx you could easily see how far the band’s sound has grown, as the beat is so minimalist with haunting guitar chords. After Jamie found his deep house sound on In Colour he brought a similar aesthetic to I See You.
The set ended with a “cover” of Jamie xx’s Loud Places a song that appeared on his solo record and featured Croft originally. The infectious club beat pounded itself over the crowd getting everyone dancing on the cool May night by the water.
When the band left the stage the thumping bass beat continued and for the encore Jamie came back first and let the beat linger for a bit longer before breaking it off as the band burst into On Hold the first single off their new album that continues their newfound UK-electronic garage sound. Intro the very first song you would have heard on a The xx record was also played as Sim thanked the crowd for being so warm to the band on such a cold night. The night was finished with Angels, from their Coexist album, and it was a quieter song allowing the audience to come down from the highs the band brought them to.