Published Aug 07, 2015After years of singles and remixes, In Colour was Jamie xx's real coming out party as a solo artist. Yet the man born James Smith chose to support its much lauded release not with a proper showcase of his compositions with, say, a live band, but with a DJ set.
Smith has been vocal about his discomfort with the spotlight, so perhaps remaining behind the decks is his way of staying grounded amidst all the publicity. Also, he's rather good at it.
Sporting floppy hair and a rumpled button-up, Smith took the stage with little fanfare, starting his set with some vintage R&B horns before teasing the packed crowd with Idris Muhammad's "Could Heaven Ever Be Like This," the basis for the sky-scraping hook on In Colour standout, "Loud Places." This move set the tone for much of the evening, which saw Smith spinning anything from house and electro to UK bass and even a drum & bass freak out.
Flanked by two monitors, he worked a pair of CDJs, two turntables and notably, no microphone, occasionally pulling records from a pair of crates to his right. Behind him, a massive disco ball was suspended in air, and it was deployed rather sparingly throughout the night.
Smith has made some strides of late. Back in May he told Exclaim! that spinning his own material in a DJ set would be "awkward." Here, he let his selections give context for the diverse range of influences that fed In Colour's creation, playing his source material before sneaking his own cuts into the mix, then dropping them before they threatened to overwhelm the rest of the material.
Snippets of "All Under One Roof Raving" was an early highlight, as was an interpolation of his own remix of Gil Scott-Heron's "I'll Take Care of You," but one got the impression that Smith was more comfortable spinning other people's tunes than his own.
Smith isn't a flashy DJ; rather, his strength comes from his role as a selector. He doesn't spin floor-fillers; he sets a mood. Few in the crowd appeared to recognize the tracks, but they responded well — the venue's floor (and balcony) was awash in bodies moving to the rhythm, with tracks from In Colour holding the set together.
Early in the night, he would slyly work his own music into the mix; by the end he was shoehorning them. Mind you, in this context, massive tracks like the menacing "Gosh" and hedonistic "I Know (There's Gonna Be Good Times)" hardly need any introduction. He ended his nearly two hour set where he began, finally giving the crowd "Loud Places," much to everyone's delight. Then, with a wave goodbye, he was gone.
Still, despite the evening's highs, the set felt more like a killer after party than proper solo show. Perhaps next time, Smith's confidence will allow him to finally take centre stage.