Live Review: Alt-J, Capital FM Arena (08/12/2015)

After somehow unpretentiously claiming the hipster triangle as their “favourite shape”, band name and emblem; Alt-J blew us all away back in 2012 with their perfectly controlled hall room harmonies: “Three points where two lines meet, toe to toe, back to back, let’s go, my love; it’s very late.’Til morning comes, let’s tessellate.”

And so we did. Joe Newman‘s hypnotic lyrics “about maths and sex” coupled with the rarity that is genuine talent lead to the boy’s cruising An Awesome Wave to multi award winning success. I guess we were all wondering how such a beautifully formed debut would be followed up and, with the exception of the brilliant ‘Hunger of the Pine’s’ haunting reverberations nodding to Gwyl Sainbury’s departure from the band, This is All Yours was just not as memorable as an entity, but that’s not to say my foot wasn’t ferociously tapping to ‘Left Hand’s Free’ in the Jubilee Library last Autumn.

Not often will you see me at a gig without a pint in hand but as I stood nursing a hangover on a scale such as that ‘hair of the dog’ was not an option it is a testament to the Alt J boys that their performance was a tonic in itself. Capital FM wasn’t packed to capacity so we all had a little bit more space to breathe, and attention was rapt on the stillness which seemed to emanate from the band. As much of a visual spectacle as anything else, the trippy light displays succeeded in accentuating the complexities of the tracks without ever becoming distracting. The band were shrouded in dry ice merging their features into blankness, but it was clear to see their enjoyment, each oozing with a kind of measured cool. Keyboardist Gus Unger Hamilton even took a few breaks to sip a glass of red from atop his Xylophone.

“The band were shrouded in dry ice merging their features into blankness, each oozing with a kind of measured cool”

After an hour of Thom Green’s cowbell infused beats, and generously offering Matilda up for a crowd sing a long (because everyone definitely knows the words to that one, right?) the stage went dark and the band didn’t insult our intelligence by lying about their last song or anything silly like that. They simply walked back onstage to our cheers and performed a 5 song encore inclusive of my favourite track ‘Taro’, all hands in the air and hips swaying to the infectious electric bhangra style riffs.

Each track was met with a surge of positive energy, and their performance was unfaltering. ‘Breezeblocks’ finished the night off, and after well deserved bows from the band, I left the gig feeling recharged and reflecting on how genuinely the boys came across. Nice one Alt-J, something good tonight made me forget about my sore head for a while…

Liz Newman

Image: Eddy Berthier via Flickr

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Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham's IMPACT Magazine.

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