The xx were fairly humble during their amazing early evening gig on the Green Stage. Only the three of them, performing intensely emotional music with beats that penetrated to the core, and the overcapacity crowd felt every intention. Though Romy Croft and Oliver Sim fronted the band with their vocals and warm stage patter, it was Jamie xx Smith who commanded the show, perched atop his riser in the back with his battery of keyboards setting the beats and, for that matter, the general tenor of the show.
The xx’s peculiar brand of white bread R&B is founded on a distinctly downtempo model, and yet the hour-long show cooked and simmered thanks to Jamie’s instinctive gift for finding the kernel of a surefire melody in his search for the perfect riff.It was one of those nights of perfect synergy. Smash has occasionally, but not always, been able to program their Fuji Rock stages so that the acts complement one another.
The xx’s show flowed perfectly into that of the Gorillaz, a band that most people think exists only on digital media. The cartoon characters that front the group, however, remained in the background, on the back screen.
Though Damon Albarn and his backup band donned black surgical masks for the first song, it was mostly a feint. They discarded them and launched into a full blown band concert that never flagged. At one point, Albarn acknowledged that the band’s anime m.o. may have held it back as a live act. This was their second time in Japan, but the first time “at an industrial setting” in 2001 (Summer Sonic, to be exact), where the band played behind a scrim, was apparently less than ideal.
Albarn made up for it with a funk marathon that stretched his understanding of black music, and while he had to rely on various black rappers and singers to fulfill his ideas, it was for the most part Albarn’s show all the way, and he held his own. It may have been the most viscerally satisfying show we’ve seen on the Green Stage since Rage Against the Machine back in 99, and that’s saying a lot. The thing is, Gorillaz knows what it takes to rock a crowd of over 10,000 people. It’s a rare talent.