Oliver Sim of The xx made an impassioned speech at Bestival as the band headlined the Castle Stage (aka the main stage) last night. After the London trio played a hushed rendition of ‘VCR’, taken from their self-titled 2009 debut, he told the audience: “I love festivals. We live in scary times. It’s quite isolating. So to have everyone together, forgetting all the bullshit in the world – it’s so important.”
This captured the tone of a jubilant set that included percussionist/DJ Jamie xx’s solo material (including ‘Loud Places’) and was frontloaded with quieter, more reflective tracks from the band’s first two albums, before blossoming into a steel drum-laden set of bangers taken from latest record ‘I See You’, plus a little from Jamie xx’s solo album ‘In Colour’. Well, there’s always a fancy dress theme at Bestival and this year’s is ‘Colour’, so it was only right.
In their early days, The xx were noted for giving what could almost be described as anti-performances, doing little onstage but let their unstated, minimalist pop music do the talking. Tonight, though, they give it everything. Singer and guitarist Romy Madley Croft has developed a kind of rock star swagger, while bassist Sim spent the show windmilling his upper body in time to the beat.
Twice the band said that they’d been all around the world but were never as overwhelmed by the response as when they played in the UK. Sims did the honours the first time around and, when it was her turn, Croft said: “I want you to know that we see you and we love you.” It was a definite love-in. When xx messed up the percussion on the opening of ‘Say Something Loving’ and they had to start over, Croft mock-admonished him a cockney accent: “Jamiiiiiieeee.”
This was also a diverse set – in contrast to some detractors’ claims that xx songs are perhaps a little too consistently sedate – with Croft performing one song alone with guitar, looking vulnerable yet triumphant, before Jamie xx delivered an absolutely banging mid-performance dance interlude. This was a celebratory show, in spite of the current political turmoil that Sim referenced, and the band seemed genuinely delighted to be headlining Bestival 2017.