Jamie xx: Alexandra Palace, London
It’s Friday night and Jamie says Let’s Dance. Alexandra Palace spun into life and back to ’83, kick starting the DJ’s biggest headline show to date. With the immortal words of Bowie pumping through a ten thousand strong crowd, we know he means business.
The world first picked up the pulse of Jamie (xx) Smith through his direction of indietronic band The xx. Riding the group’s popularity slipstream, Smith has since established his solo voice as a critically acclaimed remix artist and DJ. He’s written a pretty cool ballet too.
Grammy nominated 2015 album In Colour was internationally loved from the day of its release. The record shines across a spectrum of soundscapes, from swelling synths to vibrantly kinetic floor-fillers. Smith’s production engages the senses at an intellectual level, balancing futuristic hard-edged pulses in Gosh with the blurred nostalgia of Just Saying and SeeSaw. Vulnerability, longing and starry-eyed elation: there’s something for everyone.
No surprise then that the cavernous hall of Alexandra Palace was crammed with fans prepped for sensory magic. Dress code was ‘edgy yet nonchalant’: unshaven beards, diamante-adorned eyes and black body-cons. They welcomed Smith as the Pied Piper of electronica, he could twist the dials in any direction, and they’d follow chanting his name.
The set had a chameleon fluidity. Intermittently the dance-floor leapt back to the golden electronic funk sounds of the 80s. Smith interlaced vintage with his own mixes. Each In Colour track was greeted by a sea of hands, dancing in shards of colour cast by magnificent glitter balls. Reaching back further Smith dropped the revolutionary 70s track I Feel Love (Summers) revved by an explosively powerful bass system. Settling himself amongst disco royalty was a powerful statement. Summer’s hypnotic vocals rocked the hall for longer than many of Smith’s own tracks, overcooking it slightly. His talent is undeniable, but shaky transitions and a set of confused identities won’t put him in the hall of fame just yet.
Jamie xx: Loud Places (ft Romy), Official Video (2015)
The music continued to shapeshift. Smith went in hard with the sharp-edged strength of Bring (Randomer), complemented by awesomely powerful strobes. The dazzling disco balls now hung redundant. 10pm on a London evening suddenly felt like 3am in a Berlin nightclub.
The high voltage beat cooled with the silky vocals of xx bandmate Romy on collaborative track SeeSaw. Hypnotic synths soared into the steel drum echoes of Far Nearer, before landing at the climactic Gosh. The evening’s colour wheel lighting came to rest in a kaleidoscope of rainbow light. In Colour has landed.
Live, a Jamie xx set is what you make of it. Some got the most out of it by being out of it. Clubbers on the front row were totally absorbed, but to those on the sidelines it was something to be watched rather than something to live.
In a vast hall that’s often unforgiving to live music’s acoustic, the clean-cut strength of a DJ’s sound actually worked. Thanks to the immense sound system bass addicts got one hell of a fix (although bring earplugs, seriously). But with a space like this the opportunities for a monster show are limitless (Florence had an indoor sun for starters), and really a record of this calibre deserves a set of equal stature. Smith’s sound pulsed into the farthest reaches of the Palace, but the set was just a bit anonymous.
(Photo: Abbey Ennis)