Jamie xx fails to read the room at Danforth Music Hall

Eighty minutes into his nearly two-hour set, the crowd finally livens up


JAMIE XX at Danforth Music Hall, Thursday, August 6. Rating: NN


On his recent debut solo album, In Colour, Jamie xx (aka Jamie Smith) looked back at the 90s heyday of British rave culture to argue for music with more nuance and finesse than the cookie-cutter beats and drops of mainstream EDM.

Rather than recreate the album’s classic acid, jungle, house, grime and dancehall-inflected tracks with a live band for the sold-out Danforth Music Hall crowd, The xx’s wallflowerish sonic architect chose to contextualize breakout songs like Loud Places, Gosh, The Rest Is Noise and I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) into a DJ set that heavily emphasized the influences behind those records.

The show started pleasantly enough with Idris Muhammad’s Could Heaven Ever Be Like This (sampled in the chorus of Loud Places) kicking things off energetically with a bit of fun, horny disco. From there Smith segued into house, and mixed In Colour cuts into dubby pop edits, drum ’n’ bass, techno and so on.

The crowd remained steadfastly facing Smith and patiently maintained a low pulse in anticipation of the next In Colour snippet. When one arrived, the room (and a giant disco ball onstage) briefly erupted and then returned to dutiful repose.

This fitful momentum was due to Smith’s tendency to play tracks out into extended outros and reduce them to rhythmic elements before building everything back up again. The slow-burn effect occasionally imparted a kind of blissful grandeur – like when he slowly brought in the vocal from Loud Places – but it grew formulaic. It felt as though the audience was waiting through a commercial break for a TV show to return (also very 90s).

The first truly massive crowd response came 80 minutes into the nearly two-hour set when he finally dropped In Colour opener Gosh. Saving the big guns for the end is standard in a live band show, but it confirmed that Smith had little interest in reading the room. (A contemporary producer who takes a similarly nerdy, referential approach to DJing but makes it fun is Flying Lotus.) 

Smith has eclectic taste, but as a DJ he’s as uncharismatic as in interviews. 

kevinr@nowtoronto.com | @kevinritchie

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