August 15, 2017
It seems like longtime fans of The xx are some of the most chilled and cheerful people you’ll meet, and it felt from the start. As a rule, concert goers don’t get too excited about warm-up bands and anxiously wait for the headliner to take the stage. But The xx’s crowd was unusually upbeat and laid-back and welcomed the support. When a young warm-up band from Latvia, Bandmaster, came on stage, they caught these welcoming vibes and answered with really positive energy. When a warm-up act keeps people drawn to the stage and gets them to dance, that’s a good start.
The air in the venue, filled with anticipation long before The xx came out, was getting increasingly hotter. Even though Rockcafe owns two floors with a bar on each one, the upper floor soon felt like Finnish sauna, while the bar on the ground level was running out of drinks, craved by the thirsty audience.
Finally, the band’s beats master, Jamie Smith, and bassist Oliver Sim took the stage to lead into the instrumental intro, building the power along with the building mood of the crowd. As if out of nowhere singer Romy Madley Croft appeared on stage, making the audience burst in cheering. “This show is very special for us. It’s our first time in Estonia”, greeted the band. “Sorry it took us so long”.
The show opened with ‘Crystalised’, whose catchy ‘go-ohh slow’ and ‘ahh ahh ahh’-refrains set the right chilled mood for the entire night. It was the first time Estonian fans ever got to hear The xx live, and it was obvious from track one that live, the band sounded way richer in shades and nuances, while nailing the technical side of the songs hands down.
Romy’s voice mesmerized with its velvet sound and soft aspiration, especially when the next fans’ favorite, ‘Say Something Loving’ took off. The female singer’s vocal strength and range have been progressing over the years, and it shows.
At this point of the show the story took an unexpected twist: a 6-7-year-old girl sitting on her dad’s shoulders with a poster in her hands, singing every song, melted the hearts of the band members, and before the music for ‘I Dare You’ started playing, Oliver invited the little girl onto the stage. The girl was obviously a local, either with Estonian or Russian as her mother tongue, so it was impressive she even answered the bassist what her name was, let along her singing to ‘I Dare You’ in English throughout the whole song.
At first, the band offered her to take a seat on the right side of the stage but the whole scene was so touching that Oliver lifted the little cutie and held her until the end of the song. But here is a dilemma: how to return the child back to her parents, standing a few rows away? The bassist jumped down from the stage, picked the girl up and passed her through people’s hands back to her family. “Oh my god, I wanna cry,” – said Romy and took half a minute to get her breath. One of the sweetest moments on stage. Ever.
And that was not the only sweet treat of the night. The xx had a special gift for Tallinn crowd in mind: Oliver took the mic to introduce the song from the latest album that they’ve never played live before – a heartfelt, semi-acoustic ‘Brave For You’. He warned in advance: “I’m sorry if we mess it up” but it wasn’t necessary: the band killed it as if the song had always been part of their live setlist.
The live rendition of band’s next thing, ‘Infinity’, surprised a lot with Romy’s penetrating, emotional vocal parts in contrast to the original subdued delivery she offered on the album. The recurrent “can’t give it up” was stuck in our heads long after the song reached the end.
The show started increasing pace with ‘VCR’, which brought an air of playfulness into the emotional atmosphere that reigned during most of the night. And just as their rendition of ‘Shelter’ and ‘Islands’, the songs from their debut album made up an important part of the gig and proved to still feel fresh, relevant and still engage the audience.
Jamie xx’s cover of ‘Loud Places’ was for sure the most “danceable” piece in the whole show. Soundwise the song was a bit of a torture, though: the pre-recorded vocal parts resonated so much that the rasping bits hampered the process of enjoying the song for some of us. But that’s where a masterfully designed light show stepped in to direct the crowd into the dance mode, so a little technical issue was easily forgiven.
And, of course, the band couldn’t skip peforming ‘On Hold’ and ‘Angels’ encore. The light effects that played out during ‘On Hold’ were very well executed and shifted the mood towards the end of the show, accentuating the difference in style from their other records. Over the years, The xx have perfected the use of silences and dramatic changes in rhythms and this intercharge magnified the effect of the live performance.
Finally, ‘Angels’, their last song of the night, gave Romy one last opportunity to show off her unique voice and to close the evening with the subtle but powerfully emotional unmistakable sound of The xx. The song is so personal to fans that you could see some people have tears in their eyes.
The crowd didn’t want to let The xx go but the organizers decided to call it a night. But while the night at the Rockcafe came to an end, fans were in such a state of bliss that they simply couldn’t go home and went to “chill on” with their friends and share overwhelming impressions. “We love you, Tallinn”, screamed the band. And Tallinn now loves The xx even more.
Text: Tatiana Vinichenko, Carmen Sophia Cadenas
Photo credit: Carmen Sophia Cadenas
AlteRock thanks L Tips for their accreditation and collaboration.
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