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The XX, intimate and shy, close tour in festival style

Shaun Tandon

Agence France-Presse

New York, United States  /  Tue, July 31, 2018  /  02:05 am
The XX, intimate and shy, close tour in festival style

British musician Romy Madley Croft of The xx performs during the Panorama Music Festival on Randall's Island on July 29, 2018 in New York (AFP/Angela Weiss)

With a sparse, melancholic take on electropop that drives stories of loneliness, The XX makes music that may sound more suited to an intimate club, or bedroom, than the open air.

But the London trio on Sunday night closed an exhaustive global tour before thousands of enthusiastic fans at Panorama, the New York festival put on by the promoters behind Coachella, the California mega-event.

Showing a palpable nervousness on stage even after being on the road since February 2017, co-lead singer Romy Madley Croft profusely thanked the audience and recalled that the latest album, "I See You," was partially recorded in New York.

Turning the solitary-minded music into a live show, The XX transformed the stage into a mirage of mirrors, clear sheets of light shining inward as if illuminating the music's secrets.

Co-lead Oliver Sim, his comforting baritone making him sound like a self-effacing version of Bono, dedicated "Fiction," his song of lonesomeness, to the LGBTQ community.

"I see you, I love you, I'm one of you, and this song is for you," Sim, who like Madley Croft is gay, said to cheers.

The winner of Britain's prestigious Mercury Prize in 2010, The XX has topped the charts in Britain and reached number two in the United States with albums whose shadowy guitar, darkly powerful bass and understated electronic backdrop have drawn parallels to The Cure.

"I See You," however, marked a more uptempo turn for the group, with danceable tracks and nods to club culture.

- Weather cancellations -

Coachella promoter Goldenvoice launched Panorama in 2016 amid soaring growth of festivals in the United States, setting up the three-day summer party on Randall's Island where Manhattan, Queens and The Bronx come together.

After two years of luck with the weather, Panorama on Friday scrapped most of the first evening due to thunderstorms including performances by headliner The Weeknd and the whispering French actress and pop singer Charlotte Gainsbourg.

The cancellation evens the score two years after rival Governors Ball, which also takes place on Randall's Island and had protested the arrival of Panorama, called off headliner Kanye West due to a storm forecast.

Panorama -- this year taking on more of a picnic atmosphere, with less of the avant-garde art of previous editions -- also featured Janet Jackson, who opened her finely choreographed headlining set on Saturday with "The Skin Game," her still pertinent 1990 song about racial double-standards, and covered her late brother Michael's "Scream."

The festival closed with Las Vegas rock showmen The Killers, who delighted a young fan in the front row after he held a sign requesting to play drums, and they invited him to play on "For Reasons Unknown."

Read also: The xx: A shelter from the Jakarta storm

- Innovation by Byrne -

One of the most innovative performances of the festival came from pop legend David Byrne, who designed an ultra-sleek stage with nothing but the 11 musicians -- dressed in matching gray suits -- and their cordless instruments.

The former Talking Heads frontman, in a set identical to his Coachella performance and ongoing tour, opened by sitting barefoot, serenading a model of a brain, on "Here," a song touching on neuroscience off his latest album "American Utopia."

Byrne danced as if swished by a forceful wind on the Talking Heads classic "Burning Down the House" but ended on a non-ironic note with his cover of Janelle Monae's protest song "Hell You Talmbout."

Set only to percussion, Byrne and his band listed African Americans killed by police or in vigilante attacks, urging the audience to join in saying their names to remember their humanity.

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