It is no small feat to make an outdoor concert in the heart of downtown Nashville feel inclusive and intimate, especially when your brand of music is more deep (arena) house than campfire circle kumbaya. Nevertheless, that's exactly what The xx managed to initiate this past Wednesday night - an evening of intimate sharing and connectivity - at one of Nashville's most complex (in terms of sound and size) venues.
As Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim, and Jamie xx took to the Ascend Amphitheater stage late Wednesday night, there were bound to be many thoughts running through the minds of those in attendance. Perfume Genius' excellent opening set, what would The xx's set have in store for the evening, the mystery of The xx's stage production, and of course, thoughts of safety at the show.
In short, all questions were answered, in myriad ways. Perfume Genius offered up not only one of the finest opening sets, but sets in general of the entire year. It's no easy task (and some might argue and unenviable one) to try and warm up a crowd for a band as exceptional as The xx, but Perfume Genius managed to do so in spades. As for what The xx had in store for their own set, it was nothing short of pure, unadulterated indie pop perfection.
Sure, calling The xx "indie pop" might leave a strange taste in the utterer's mouth, but their distinct take on the otherwise blanket statement genre classification is something to marvel at, especially considering from where The xx have come. What once was a type of wistful groove borne out of the dark confines of Wandsworth clubs has blossomed and bloomed into one of the world's finest purveyors of indie sensibility and hopefulness.
For years, Croft and Sim were seen as general marionettes for the purported musical puppet mastery of Jamie xx, but go to any of The xx's shows on this I See You tour, and you'll witness firsthand just how off base that ascription is. Croft's guitar playing has crossed new thresholds and breathed new life into all of The xx's discography. Then there's Oliver, who has assumed the mantle of unofficial frontman, or at least the one most willing to speak extemporaneously in between songs - his song dedication of "Fiction" made for an entertaining aside, as he poked fun at the fact that the band has "a lot of people ask us to dedicate songs to couples. But you couples already have each other, and I'm single, so I'm bitter. That's why I think we'll do one for all the single people here."
And then there's Jamie xx, the unequivocal glue of the group (tired metaphor, I know), who remains abashedly quiet throughout the set, rarely ever raising his gaze up past his table top multitude of mixing boards and midis, faithfully holding it down from "Intro" all the way to "On Hold." His musical machinations in turn provide impetus for the aesthetic pleasure of The xx's reflective and color spectrum spanning stage production, which maintains with the band's minimalist style, all the while stimulating at any point and time during the set.
As many have made apparent (Now/It's included), The xx put on an unparalleled live show, not only in the world of indie pop (or whatever classification you prefer), but music as a whole. They are officially an arena band, as their tours bring out people in droves, with Nashville serving as a prime example. But even despite such an impressive feat, The xx provide a more meaningful purpose, especially in today's particularly trying music going times - while The xx might be most immediately known as some of the premiere beat makers in the world, they also manage to facilitate joy and inclusivity at any and all shows.
Whether they're playing a dingy club in Wadsworth, or a wide open amphitheater in Nashville, the sentiments shared by Romy Madley Croft at the end their set ring wholly true - "We see you, we love you, and we'll hopefully see you soon. Take care of yourselves, take care of each other. Goodnight." To make such a sentiment evident in front of literal thousands is no small feat, but for The xx, it's absolutely true.