The xx - Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Wed 12 Sep 2012 (4 stars)

The xx - Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Wed 12 Sep 2012

Blockbusting light and visuals let music speak for itself at this cosy love-in

Spare, dreamy, devotional music as under-the-covers intimate as The xx’s shouldn’t logically work in a venue this ornate and cavernous. But the gifted young London trio pull off a game-raising performance with deceptive ease at one of their biggest headline shows to date – the finale of a release-week mini-tour of UK concert halls in support of solid second album Coexist, the much-anticipated follow-up to their self-titled 2009 Mercury prize-winning debut.

A blockbusting light and visuals display is yet another relatively shy and static indie band’s ally, allowing the young London trio – vocalists and guitarists Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim, backed by percussionist and electronics man Jamie Smith, who busily cooks up a storm of beats and drones surrounded by a veritable kitchen of equipment – to maintain their default pose of slow-moving silhouettes against all the dry ice and strobes, and let the tunes speak for them for the most part.

The indistinguishability of The xx’s new album from its predecessor has been widely noted, by the band included, and they’re right to make no apologies for it – why rush to develop a sound already so distinguished from everything else surrounding in contemporary British indie? They do a fine job live of crafting a set with unexpectedly dramatic and dynamic variation in temperament, volume and pace, when it could be a relatively monolithic affair. A delicate, breathy ‘Angels’ starts things with quiet intensity, but by ‘Missing’ five songs later – which is preceded by a pretty shower of strobe-lit silver glitter dropped from the rafters, the kind of thing most other bands would save for a finishing flourish – they’ve built up a shimmering, imposingly noisy wall of sound. Come the pumping, hypnotic climax of ‘Reunion’ the atmosphere is practically clubby; it’s only during their most identifiable number, ‘VCR’, that the mysterious gloom breaks and lifts to the point where we can actually see the band clearly.

Slowly revealed with almost pseudo-religious ceremony from behind a curtain during main set closer ‘Infinity’, a giant dry-ice-filled, LED-illuminated ‘X’ at the rear of the stage – which hangs eerily behind the band during a well-judged encore of portentous instrumental ‘Intro’ (so beloved of TV directors in need of a soundtrack to a moody montage sequence) and the waifish melancholy of ‘Stars’ – seals this cosy love-in on a grand scale how else but with a great big kiss.

The xx - Chained

The xx - Angels

The xx

The Mercury Prize winning trio play an understated blend of indie, soul, pop and new-wave.