Jamie XX @ The Danforth

A Thursday Night In Greek Town

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Toronto is not a city that’s low on its number of hipsters- heck we even wrote an article on how to grab yourself that dream hipster girl. But I reckon Kensington Market and its surrounding area must have been dead on the eve of Thursday 6th August as all of Toronto’s cool-young-pretty-things flocked to The Danforth to witness fellow cool-young-thing Jamie XX. Jamie Smith, as he is otherwise known, has had himself quite the year already; a popular figure on the global music scene with the band The XX, his debut feature album In Colour was released little over two months ago to rave reviews. After a banging set at Bestival, it is no surprise that his show at The Danforth was one of the hottest gigs of the year.

I’ve been bobbing my head in a melancholy manner to The XX for years now, but even after the first of the Jamie XX remix’s came out I didn’t think that years later I would be in a bursting historical Toronto music hall watching not The XX, but him. It is refreshing that the concert is so busy as I can’t help but get excited when a British artist does well. Part of me is still a little bit surprised that this is the case though from the content of the album alone; In Colour is dripping with UK Garage music influences and is in its own way, extremely British. It is completely different to his last release- 2011s We’re New Here, which is a rework of Gil Scott Heron’s last album I’m New Here. This album features the track ‘’I’ll Take Care Of You’’, a song that caught the attention of everyone’s favourite Torontonian, Drake, who turned it into the chart topping ‘’Take Care’’ with Rihanna,

After fighting my way through numerous queues (entrance, ATM(Handy tip- always get cash out) and bar) I finally made it into The Danforth and on stage was a heavily backlit Jamie XX, shadowed very much ‘’In Colour’’, sheltering behind his raised turntables. In recent interviews he has talked about how his shows are more in the mould of DJ sets, commenting that his songs aren’t meant for the big stage and that he prefers to work them into a set in a way a true music nerd only could. He strikes me as a ‘’well raised’’ Englishman; polite, unassuming- and someone we Northerners would refer to as a Southern Fairy. He isn’t bouncing around front and centre, getting the crowd all hyped up but rather someone who is keener on having the music doing the talking for him. A tactic that may work well in more intimate settings but may not be the ideal one for 2-hour sets and sell out shows.

Behind Jamie was a giant disco ball that burst into life whenever a track from In Colour was dropped; unfortunately these moments also coincided with the only bits of life being shown by a rather passive crowd, who seemed to think that you’re only supposed to dance when a DJ plays his own songs. It took roughly 80 minutes for the party to actually start and then it was over shortly after it had begun. A pre planned big finale featuring hit singles ”Gosh”, ”I Know There’s Gonna Be Good Times” and ”Loud Places” was the standout moment of the night and made the rest of the set rather forgettable. Smith clearly wanted to just go up there and play the songs he wanted to play, rather than put on a show. The place wasn’t as bumping as it should have been, with the high ceilings and acoustics in The Danforth being as far from a nightclub atmosphere as you could possibly get. Surely whether you’re a musician just starting out, or a Grammy winning megastar- you would want every set to be a wildfire of crazy activity and energy. Thursday night at The Danforth however felt at times more like a kid playing with a box of matches- the potential for bigger things was there but it was ultimately a bit of a let down.

Adam Kay

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