The Forum is a big ol’ venue. Seating 17,505, this is the venue where Kanye played like, five-and-a-half times and on a floating stage. This is the columned arena in the middle of Inglewood that used to play host to Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers. Was this really a venue for The xx? Yes, the new album has a much bigger, dancier sound, but The xx at heart will always be most associated with their original, minimalist sound from 2009. Do they really have enough stage presence to command such a massive venue? The answer is a resounding yes on that one.
It was Los Angeles, it was a Friday, it was The Forum; we’re talking a lot of good looking people. An entire arena’s worth, actually. After a stellar opening set by Perfume Genius, the lights came on and the stage crew did their thing. Right away, it was clear something special was coming. Four giant mirror monoliths were set up at each stage corner. Jamie xx’s booth was also a giant mirror cube, on top of a rectangular mirror platform. There was even a mirrored ceiling above the stage. Laser test. Check. Fog machine test. Check. Entire arena full of devoted fans. You bet.
As suddenly as the lights went off and the first few notes of “Intro” rang out, a giant collective of mostly-female scream let out. The mirrored monoliths rotated as the band played, spewing lights from their sides. The entirety of the stage floor was made up of panels that contained their own lights, which went along to the music.
They transitioned right into “Crystalized” and it was immediately apparent that Jamie xx wasn’t going to be restricted to the electronics, as he bashed on a stand-up drum kit to the right of his booth. Oliver Sim grooved along as he played bass and Romy Croft practically mirroring him on guitar.
After a strong start with three cuts off the first album, Sim finally greeted the crowd with the first of many interludes. A brief “How’s it going LA?” And just like that, they dove right into the new album with “Say Something Loving.”
The crowd was feeling it, and not just in the tightly packed pit. The masses in the seated sections were on their feet, butts out of the chairs and moving. The band absolutely matched the energy, with Sims and Croft completely animated with their playing and Jamie xx going ham on the MPC.
A massive applause and in a sincere confessional, Sim poured his heart out to the crowd, letting them know how much the Forum and this show meant to him, how much he worried about everything going right, and how much he was loving that very moment. It was a calm anxiousness, and devastatingly charming. This band just oozes posh coolness.
It was back to the music with “Islands,” “Lips” and “Dangerous,” before Croft finally took her turn to spill her guts to the crowd and let everyone know that the next track, “Performance,” would be a solo piece. She played alone at the front of the stage with nothing but two spotlights shining on her, it was a deeply personal moment.
The lights came back on and they shifted into “Infinity” followed by “A Violent Noise” and “Brave for You” before bringing it back to the classic crowd favorite “VCR.”
Blue lights pulsated along to the mellow beginning of “Fiction” only to give way to an array of colors and an impressive laser show, as Jamie xx remixed the end of the song, turning it into a true club banger. The vibe did not stop with a heavily remixed version of “Shelter,” the familiar lyrics and mellow guitars juxtaposed with a deep house beat.
This was followed by Jamie xx’s “Loud Places” with the stage lights mimicking the iconic rainbow album cover from In Colour. Sims and Croft left the stage, and Jamie xx went off, turning the arena into a full fledged warehouse party, and reminding everyone that he is one of the best DJs in the world.
The other two members of The xx rejoined the stage and at that point, and in what was one of the greatest encore transition ever, seamlessly ending the night with “On Hold” and “Angels.”
The xx have a complete mastery of shifting between energetic intensity and the genuine, minimalist intimacy that made everyone fall in love with them in 2009. They’ve embraced and thrive in a new sound, but without losing who they are at heart. With this new dimension, it is unlikely anyone should doubt what venues they can or cannot play.
Say Something Loving
I Dare You
A Violent Noise
Brave for You
Loud Places (Jamie xx cover)
Photo Credit: Kalyn Oyer