The xx’s latest album, I See You, dropped earlier this year, and though it may be early, the band have put out a strong record that should make it high on many year-end lists. The album is chock full of classic xx moments, with chilling, slow and sonically beautiful tracks like “Performance,” but makes room for a more upbeat sound, courtesy of the band’s own Jamie xx.
It wasn’t long before the band took the record on tour, with a Portland date after their stint at Coachella. Bringing along British songwriter Sampha, who has another of the year’s strongest releases thus far in his debut record, Process, The xx brought their I See You tour to Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum, a venue that would house their large fan base as well as their larger than life production.
With a full view of the stage and the constantly growing crowd, Sampha took his place for a set that was just as beautiful as the headliner’s. Though the songwriter had minimal production behind him, his voice filled the room like oxygen, echoing and bouncing from every surface. The whole crowd was in awe of his music, with tracks like “Reverse Faults” bringing a larger than life upbeat sound, while slower tracks like “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” showcased the songwriter’s pure voice.
Sampha dazzled with his opening set, but The xx were soon to bring an even larger spectacle to their Portland fans. As the lights came up after Sampha’s set, stage hands soon went to work, setting up the production and readying the stage for the band’s arrival. A curtain dropped to reveal four massive mirrored towers. The xx weren’t playing around.
After much anticipation, the lights went back down, enveloping the arena in darkness. Chants and screams echoed through the venue. The band took the stage and the first notes of “Say Something Loving” rang out.
Immediately, the darkness of the venue was broken by a spattering of lights. Beams of light reflected and shimmered off the large mirrors, which rotated behind the band, creating patterns and reflections like a painting of light. The stage below the band lit up with a colorful grid, which too reflected off the mirrors, creating a continuous, fluid visual space.
The production The xx brought was exactly the beauty needed to complement their open and elegant sound. After closing out “Say Something Loving,” the arena was filled with applause as the band launched into “Crystalised,” a fan favorite from their freshman self-titled album.
The setlist itself spread across all three of their studio albums, providing fans of all types with songs to sing along to. Even member Jamie xx put a cut from his own solo effort in the mix.
Seven songs in, the band came to an abrupt stop in the middle of “Basic Space.”
“Is everyone alright? What happened?” bassist Oliver Sim asked.
A group of people in the crowd had been waving the lights on their phones, trying to catch the band’s, or somebody’s, attention. A member of the crowd was unconscious. The band immediately stepped into action and called for a paramedic to retrieve the man from the pit. Even after the situation was resolved and the set continued, the band continued to check in on the audience member, updating the rest of the crowd on his wellbeing.
The band continued their set. On “Performance,” lead vocalist and guitarist Romy Madley Croft took the song all herself, providing a highlight of the night. Following this, “Brave For You” brought a burst of energy to the set, harnessing the power of Jamie xx’s beats and production coupled with the light show that continued to glow.
The band ended the night with an encore of three songs: the first single off I See You, “On Hold,” their widely known “Intro” and their Coexist track, “Angels.”
Before leaving the stage for the last time, Madley Croft addressed the audience.
“Portland,” she said. “We see you. And we love you. Goodnight.”
With a dazzling production and gorgeous harmonies, The xx created a night full of beauty that will continue to reflect in our minds long after the show’s end.