In my life, I’ve e-mailed Jamie Stewart a total of maybe four or five times, trying to impress on him how incredibly important it is that he come to Ireland to play. He’s e-mailed back a few times too, but it was all polite, meaningless words mostly. Or at least no commitments. Not that I expected him to just jump into a helicopter because I e-mailed him or anything.
The point is that I was happy when Xiu Xiu announced. After three days of an exam-study-gig-(or Champion’s League final)-sleep schedule, I was getting tired, but it was Xiu Xiu. Come on, like. I noted to my friend Goo that when we were at Why? in Andrew’s Lane, which is a shed, it was packed out with enthusiastic people with angular haircuts, but that Whelans was only half full for Xiu Xiu? First time they’ve been here ever, and no-one turns up? For shame Dublin.
It was way louder than I was expected. Certain quarters have complained about Xiu Xiu being sort of self-aware drama, or “music as nightmare” – it’s not something I necessarily agree with, in terms of their recorded output, but the gig was definitely down that aisle.
Most of the time they weren’t playing melody, Jamie and Caralee were hitting something very hard, whether cymbal, bell or snare. Ches Smith was hitting things hards all the time he wasn’t being silent. Devin Hoff’s electric double-bass made everything that much more ominous in person than it comes across on record.
There were whispers and there were screams. There was no banter whatsoever, except for a couple of muted thank yous and a “this is our first time in Dublin” at the end. There was no encore. It was just an hour and a bit of blasting through Women As Lovers and choice cuts from earlier albums. Even poor Clowne Towne was at the receiving end of a no-nonsense belting, in the absence of Caralee’s arpeggiating Mini-Moog thing on this tour.
It’s hard to pick highlights, because it was more like a rehearsed art show than a rock gig. Everything is integral, and it works as a whole set, not as a list of songs. It’s stupid to pick stuff out. BUT. I’m going to anyway. Clover off La Foret, with gamelan bells and pin-drop silences was really mesmeric. No Friend Oh! is just a good song. Master Of The Bump had a bizarre boudoir vibe. There weren’t bad songs.
The complaint I could make is this: I know they were at the end of a tour, and they’re not the most populist band in the world anyway, but a little personality could have gone a long way. I know Dublin orgasms any time someone pretends to like it more than elsewhere, and I’m not saying that, but some sort of acknowledgment that they were playing a real-life place and not just a date on a tour might have been nice.
Also, in case they ever come back:
Do not sing along to the hurried, whispered lines about rape and self-loathing.
Just a tip, take it or leave it.