Live review: The XX + Jagwar Ma – Brisbane Convention Centre – 9th April 2013

Two million Facebook ‘likes’ – that’s how popular The XX are. Two million people the world over have been affected enough by their music to seek out a particular web page and give them their seal of approval with a single click. Until Tuesday, I was not one of those people. But only until Tuesday.

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I enter Brisbane’s Convention Centre and make the seemingly endless walk from the Melbourne Street entrance to where the action is, and am immediately presented with a dilemma – grab a drink from the bar and hoof it down me in the foyer (no drinks allowed in the auditorium!), or head straight in and catch the support. Thankfully I make the sensible choice and head in to see Jagwar Ma. From the very start, I like them; I’m a sucker for a band with the knack of mashing indie rock and dance beats together with such great results. ‘Come and Save Me’ is a top track, and the three-piece are full of energy throughout their set, even if the majority of this audience aren’t. The other track I recognise – ‘The Throw’ – is just as good, if not better, and I note more than a hint of The Happy Mondays and the production of Martin Hannett in the band. Bravo.

Brisbane Convention Centre is normally far from being the best venue to watch a band; the pristine carpets, middle-of-the-road alcohol policy, and office-like sterility don’t exactly lend character to an evening’s gig-going, but in some ways it’s the perfect place for The XX’s live show. The London trio’s music pulls fans of all ages to the gig, and the sparse stage lightning is perfectly suited for their dark and brooding tunes.

After a short wait the lights are dimmed and Oliver Sim, Romy Madley Croft, and Jamie Smith walk onto the stage, and ‘Try’ begins (anyone else think the beginning sounds like a car alarm?) Huge cheers reverberate around the Convention Centre and the track has all the ominous feel that’s on the record. Songs from their debut album and latest offering Coexist are blended seamlessly, including ‘Crystalised’, ‘Chained’, and ‘Reunion’ in quick succession before Oliver addresses the audience with “How’s it going Brisbane? This is the last day of the entire tour, so I not only want to thank you all, but I want to thank you as a country too.” Cue fervent, patriotic cheers.

‘Sunset’ is next, and it’s at this point I realise what a tight guitar player Romy is; she doesn’t miss a note all night and her riffs really stand out amongst the atmospheric haze emanating from the stage. ‘Missing’ follows, then ‘Reconsider’; a B-side off Coexist, then earlier track ‘VCR’.

A couple of songs later, and before the climax of a giant ‘X’ appearing on the stage amid a mess of white light and smoke, Oliver address the audience again. “Thank you so much Brisbane,” he says. “This has been our longest tour in Australia. We still don’t know what a bogan is, and we haven’t spent more than an hour on a beach, but we’ll be very sad to leave.”

I leave the Convention Centre and walk across the bridge towards the city with senses somehow more in tune with my surroundings. It’s a strange kind of bliss seeing The XX.

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