12 Jan 2016

Live review: Jamie xx at St James Theatre

1:45 pm on 12 January 2016
Jamie xx performs at the St James Theatre.

Jamie xx performs at the St James Theatre. Photo: RNZ / Ellen Falconer

It was only two hours earlier that the world heard the news.

One of the most influential musicians of our time had passed away and everyone in the queue outside Auckland’s St James Theatre were talking about it, very much in shock. A couple of thousand people were there last night when electronic producer Jamie xx recognised his fellow Brixtonite David Bowie by opening his set with ‘Let’s Dance’.

It was a fitting tribute to a man who contributed so much to electronic music and allowed the crowd a collective cathartic release by encouraging us to do what he would have wanted.

27-year-old Jamie Smith (the "xx" part of his stage name comes from his involvement in indie band The xx) was lucky enough to have been born in the centre of the world’s dance music scene, spending his formative years clubbing in South London. Last year’s impressive debut In Colour is nostalgic for what dance music culture used to be, while pushing electronic music forward at an invigorating pace.

Selecting tunes from the vinyl crates behind him, last night’s 90-minute set was as eclectic as his influences, covering garage, house, dancehall, grunge and hip-hop. Idris Muhammad’s ‘Could Heaven Ever Be Like This’ (sampled on the single ‘Loud Places’), came alive on the St James’s sound system, which was the best it has been since the re-opening.

The lighting set-up was carefully considered and turned the theatre into a rainbow-tinged disco. The notoriously introverted producer was backlit, his face obscured. It was only while he was playing his popular remix of Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘I’ll Take Care of You’ that he allowed himself to look up from his decks and acknowledge the room with a smile.

The energy of the crowd barely dropped at any point, despite being a Monday night and the lingering melancholy of Bowie’s death.

In the final third of his set, Jamie employed the bass-heavy ‘Gosh’, before finishing with the euphoric ‘Loud Places’ and ‘I Know There’s Going to Be (Good Times)’. A huge disco ball dropped from the ceiling and for just a moment, we were able to forget our sense of loss.

Leaving the venue, it was a line from ‘All Under One Roof Raving’ that echoed: “And we kept it UK.” The identity of London wouldn’t be the same without David Bowie’s influence and similarly, we wouldn’t have the sound of Jamie xx without the impact growing up in London had on him.