Gary Flockhart: The xx prove there’s no such thing as Mercury Prize curse

Romy Madley Croft of The xx

Romy Madley Croft of The xx

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MY favourite story about The xx came to light six months before the London trio won the Mercury Prize with their self-titled debut in 2010.

It was part of a newspaper article about the so-called ‘schoolteachers of rock’, asking them what it was like to have taught someone who went on to be a pop star.

Music teacher Nicola Pocock, whose pupils included The xx’s Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith, explained how she hadn’t expected the childhood pals to go so far so quickly, because they didn’t ever seem to be doing much.

“I don’t remember Oliver and Romy singing at all. They just didn’t do it,” she said. “As for Jamie, I remember thinking: “Oh gosh, he’s not doing anything.”

As it turned out, they weren’t skiving at all but busy making a debut album that would go on to win music’s most prestigous prize.

Last week I caught The xx at the Usher Hall and it was one of the most rewarding shows I’ve had the privilege to attend - and I’ve attended a few.

I saw them at Studio 24 a few years back and, while it was fun to witness a young band with so much potential, this time it was so much more.

Back then, I remember wondering how their sparse sound would transform to a bigger space. But that question was answered at the 2000-capacity Usher Hall.

Rather than enlisting extra musicians, Romy and Oliver traded vocals as electronic percussion whizz Jamie threaded in heavy dance beats. Adding dry ice and a dazzling light show, the evening was more like a club night than a gig.

It was thrilling stuff from start to finish, and a strong contender for gig of the year.

So much, then, for the so-called ‘Curse of the Mercury Prize’.