The xx love London and London loves The xx. Tonight, as they headline the second ever night of the newly minted All Points East Festival in Victoria Park, the band can probably see their houses from the stage. This is a place where they grew up. They share stories of writing songs around the corner, then coming to this very spot to exhale and take a moment. As gleaming cuts from ‘I See You’ and their self-titled debut ebb out in front of giant video screens, winking lights and an imminent thunderstorm, the whole set shivers with a glorious homecoming. With a love of space and time, they’re not your typical festival headliner but in this moment, none of that matters.
That spirit of unusual plays out across the day as APE changes shape from yesterday’s all-out jubilance. Sampha’s set is met with quiet reverence as his booming voice enchants a field and toys with the horizon. Less pints in the air and more closed-eye daydream, it’s a set that demands attention and nothing else. Lykke Li floats through The West Stage, glitching and flickering in the shadows. Creating a wonderland, it’s not until ‘I Follow Rivers’ twists out of the stage that the tent fully commits to her otherworldly escape but when they fall, they fall hard.
The majority of the day plays hosts to artists who aren’t your typical festival band. Lorde isn’t typical. Period. For the full hour of her set, she defines and redefines her superstardom.
Almost a year after ‘Melodrama’, the songs have lost none of that excited buzz. ‘Sober’ fizzes about the place, the hurried whisper-snarl of “Jack and Jill got fucked up and possessive when they get dark” somehow one of the biggest sing-alongs of the day before ‘Homemade Dynamite’ swings like a pendulum before breaking free, tumbling and exploding as it crashes from the stage while ‘Tennis Court’ teeters on the edge of hope and change. Wide-eyed, gleeful and with no filter between head, heart and mouth, Lorde is just as exciteable as her music. “wow look at the moon,” she exclaims as the sun sets. “what a great moon you have.” Moments later she’s asking questions about the stalls around the festival and catching up with faces she recognises in the front row. Half-snatched conversations and full-bodied embraces are shared between audience and artist, with no regard for their surroundings. And it’s fantastic.
She dances to ‘Magnets’, the track she did with Disclosure, with as much enthusiasm as anyone in the crowd, before asking them for a new album. “This seems like the sort of place they’d be”. Elsewhere a stomping, smirking ‘Louvre’ swells with neon promise and rose-coloured everything. There’s a dance routine about distance, reflections and mirrors before Lorde peels back and joins them, cracking illusions, and is lifted above them. It’s joyful, wonderful and feels eternal.
There’s also space to purge, to share and to get vulnerable. “This is a funny song to play in front of a lot of people because it’s about feeling very, very lonely,” she explains before ‘Liability’. But Lorde is surrounded by friends, empathetic and understanding, the song crackles with pained uncertainty but never breaks. On ‘Supercut’ that energy transforms into snarls, roars and collapse. In ‘Royals’ it hangs in the air and during ‘Perfect Places’ it celebrates the moment in all it’s flawed brilliance.
There’s only one way to end it all though, and that’s with one final, emotional outpouring. That’s where ‘Green Light’ comes in. Game-changing, genre-altering and delightfully odd, the track caused a splash when it was released and the ripples can still be felt. “This song is special. This song is full of melodrama. This song is joy, pain, jealousy, pettiness and fucking craziness,” she starts. Instantly sparking something inside everyone present, it feels like the rest of the world falls away as the field, unruly and jagged, gets lost in this moment. Lorde is just as hypnotized, just as present. “Anything you’ve been holding onto, any pain, any jealousy, any fucking heartbreak, when I say ‘I’ve been waiting for it’, you’re going to let it go,” she promises as the song heads to it’s incredible peak. Confetti tumbles from the sky, shaped like stars and with lyrics stamped on them, as Lorde beams. Atypical has never felt so amazing. ‘Melodrama’ has never been more real. And Lorde has never looked more at home.