After enjoying The xx‘s show in Berlin so much, I decided to make a relatively last-minute decision to attend their Night + Day event in London (a decision made somewhat easier by a pretty strong supporting lineup and the fact that a good friend decided to come with me). Having just got back from Hatfield House (which is actually about 20 or so miles north of the centre of London), here are my thoughts on how the two events compared.
Berlin’s Spreepark is a former amusement park that’s now largely overgrown – an eerie relic of times gone by. Though much of it was cordoned off, you could still see enough of the old rides and decorations to make worthwhile to take a wander round the unique location (and I’ve no doubt that many enterprising souls found ways to get a closer look). The London event, meanwhile, took place on a pleasant but otherwise fairly nondescript area of greenery somewhere in the grounds of Hatfield House – I’m sure the house is worth visiting in its own right, but the festival didn’t really manage to take advantage of that. The Berlin show achieved the band’s stated aim of providing a unique location, and this was reflected in other elements of the event too – whereas the record fair and some of the food stalls in Berlin had been sourced from local establishments, the food stalls in London had a more generic feel to them.
When the three Night + Day events were announced, one of my initial reasons for picking Berlin over London (aside from the location) was the fact that British festival crowds are notoriously dickish. To be fair though, Night + Day London was doing pretty well on the twat scale… until about 20 seconds before The xx came on stage, at which point some guy pulled a prime festival knobhead move and plonked himself right in front of me with zero regard for personal space. I later managed to get a rucksack to the face after another guy hoisted a girl onto his shoulders directly in front of me. I won’t say the crowd in Berlin was perfect, but I felt like there was a bit less of the pushing, shoving, and general lack of consideration that seems to plague British festival crowds – certainly, I never considered abandoning my position in the crowd because of other people, which is more than I can be said for London.
I should also mention an incredibly pointless and arbitrary act of theft, which involved some random girl swiping my friend’s house key after he’d dropped it on the floor (unfortunately, it was at almost the exact moment she picked it up that he realised he didn’t have it in his pocket any more). We had hoped that it might be an attempted act of kindness, but a fruitless trip to the lost property ultimately proved us wrong. Why would you steal something that is basically of zero use to you?
The London crowd did contain a girl who, upon hearing the intro to ‘Losing You’ by Solange, exclaimed “this is my JAM!” in a hilarious and completely irony-free manner – so that was a consolation prize, I suppose.
The Support Acts
Berlin had a pretty varied and eclectic support bill – Mykki Blanco was weird but strangely compelling, Kindness were fun and exuberant despite the rain, Mount Kimbie were decent in places, Chromatics were very sleek, and I enjoyed Jessie Ware as a performer even if I wasn’t entirely convinced by her songs. To be honest though, it felt like everything would sound that little bit better if the sun had come out.
Mount Kimbie and Kindness also played the London date, and while Mount Kimbie’s sets at both events felt pretty similar, I definitely enjoyed Kindness more in a rain-free environment. I’ll admit that I could take or leave Solange, but the rest of London’s support bill really was an embarrassment of riches. London Grammar made a strong claim to be the heirs to The xx’s throne with their early performance, while Jon Hopkins followed up with a thrilling set of propulsive electro. Poliça also nailed it with a set that featured a lot of new material – they’d have made a better main support in my eyes, though it’s impossible to deny the fact that Solange got the crowd going. For both quality and quantity of supports, London proved the stronger lineup overall.
The Headline Set
There’s honestly not much to call between the two sets The xx performed at these events. Both were well-executed from a technical and musical point of view, and both were nicely timed so that day turned to night over the course of the show (some neat touches included ‘Sunset’ being played at dusk and ‘Night Time’ being played once the darkness had set in. The setlists were honestly pretty much identical, with the only differences being a pair of rarities and your choice of late 90s/early 00s dance covers. London made a pretty strong showing with a cover of ‘Finally’ by Kings Of Tomorrow as well as the live debut of the Great Gatsby-soundtracking ‘Together’, but Berlin arguably trumped that with a rare airing of B-side ‘Reconsider’ (whose lyrics I love) and a mash-up of ‘Lady’ (by Modjo) and ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ (by Stardust) that featured Jessie Ware on vocals. Perhaps if the band had brought out Solange (or Florence Welch, who was spotted on site) for a duet then that might have tipped the balance – it’s a shame that opportunity went to waste.
It’s also worth pointing out that I enjoyed the actual act of standing and watching The xx more in Berlin, but that’s down to the crowd as much as the band themselves. Still, that factor combined with the the inspired, Jessie Ware-featuring mashup means that Berlin takes the prize.
So basically, if The xx hosted an event in Berlin with a lineup as strong as the London one, they’d be on to a total winner. Ultimately, I was glad to have gone to both – but while I probably enjoyed the music overall at the London event, the Berlin show definitely felt more special.