Singapore Indoor Stadium – The stage is shrouded in the purple-pink mist of a deliberate, hazy glow. The overhead spotlights find themselves enraptured in a dance of winking yellow. Beneath them, Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim stand downstage, with Jamie Smith (better known as Jamie xx, whom we spoke to on Thursday) on an elevated platform at the back, safe behind a clean, glossy set-up. From our view above, the standing pit is a sea of bobbing heads and swaying hands, lifted almost delicately, as if trying to capture Croft and Sim’s lilting, lulling croons in a gentle, palmed embrace. The show we’re at, courtesy of Secret Sounds Asia, is in celebration of the xx’s third full-length release, I See You, and the performance underway is the evening’s live rendition of one of the British indie pop band’s older singles, “VCR”.
It’s a sentimental track in more ways than one, honey-baked in the warmth of vintage nostalgia, and by the time the last xylophone notes chime and persist lambently in the air, the crowd’s already going wild. Yet the screams ebb away quickly enough, as Sim takes to the microphone and addresses the crowd: “We all surely have a hundred and one reasons to feel sad, but my one wish is that, at our shows, you leave that all behind and enjoy yourself.”
His words prove resonant with what the crowd seems to already be feeling naturally, but serve as a welcomed reminder nonetheless, and are met with agreeable applause. As an instruction, they are valid; as a hope, they had long ago been fulfilled.
Hearing iconic tracks, such as “Crystalised” and “I Dare You”, live, felt like an indelible dream. We were also fortunate to be treated to Croft’s solo execution of “Performance”. British artist Sampha, the show’s opening act, had been impressive in his own right, too, as he managed to set the tone for the evening with a sublimely soulful, aching, undisguised delivery of the likes of “Too Much”, “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano” and “Without”.
But from the band’s opening numbers (think necessary tunes such as “Intro” and “Say Something Loving”) to its closers, which very notably included a completely hypnotising and delightfully surprising Jamie xx transition from “Loud Places” to “On Hold”, a singular sentiment held true. “I don’t have to leave anymore / What I have is right here,” goes the start of “Shelter”. It’s a song about full devotion to a relationship – but on a night like this, with a band so intimate in its lyrical expression and vulnerable in introspection playing before us, the lines were more than befitting.
“We see you and we love you,” Croft says, shyly but truthfully, before launching into the show’s finale, “Angels”. It’s the lead single from their second album, Coexist, which was released a year before the trio’s previous performance in Singapore. This was back in 2013, when the band was younger, quieter; now, watching them move about the stage, absorbed and in their element, four years older and four years wiser, we can’t help but smile to ourselves, and miss the entirety of the night already, even before the appropriately final, lingering notes and words arrive – “In love, love, love.”