On Saturday (June 6) The xx played the first of 18 intimate shows in a secret city centre venue for Manchester International Festival – and those planning to attend should be warned that this report contains spoilers.
The Mercury Prize-winning trio performed a 40-minute set to a capacity crowd of just 60 people. The small audience were notified of a meeting point hours before the show and led through a series of underground tunnels beneath Victoria railway station before emerging in a tiny, cube-like bespoke performance space. The band were already waiting on a lowered translucent stage in the centre of the room as people gathered around them.
In the intense atmosphere, the audience remained largely silent throughout a set drawing heavily on last year’s second studio album ‘Coexist’. Much of the material was performed with a more stripped-back production style to suit the setting. Guitarist Romy Madley Croft and bassist Oliver Sim stared intently into each other’s eyes as opener ‘Angels’ got underway. Given the size of the room, the audience were mere inches away from the band in a performance in which every subtlety of their sound was heightened.
As the music continued, the dimensions of the room changed, which added to the extraordinary nature of the event. Firstly, the roof literally raised during third song ‘Tides’ to reveal further shimmering lights to complement those shining from beneath the stage. Later, as ‘Shelter’ was played, the four walls too dropped away to reveal the brickwork inside the secret location. Further surprises followed.
The band were heavily involved in the concept of the show, choosing to play smaller shows to reconnect with the emotions of gigs earlier in their career. The group are reportedly staying in a rented flat on the outskirts of the city and working on new music in a home studio there for the duration of their residency.
Tickets for these intimate shows sold out within minutes, but The xx have a more conventional gig tomorrow (July 9) at The Ritz for those who were unable to get them for their Manchester International Festival residency.