Friday, May 15, 2015
The HBF Stadium was sold out on Friday night for Alt-J’s all ages show.
Icelandic singer Asgeir and his band began the night as the support and his haunting and ethereal melodies filled the stadium. He was well-suited to the large venue and yet drew us into the music making the venue almost feel intimate. Incorporating both acoustic and electronic elements, Asgeir himself mostly played keyboard with simple, yet weighty chords. When talking between songs, his Icelandic accent made him hard to understand, making his music his only real way of being able to communicate with us. And communicate he did, with the crowd evidently as excited to see Asgeir as they were for Alt-J with huge cheers for him throughout his set, particularly with single King And Cross that was voted in at number 10 in triple j’s Hottest 100 last year.
After only a short break, Alt-J took to the stage. Dressed in a uniform of black t-shirts and pants, the four band members took their positions with their instruments in a row across the stage and launched straight into their set, starting with recent single Hunger Of The Pine. It was a spine tingling rendition, and set the tone for the evening of huge layers of sound and soaring harmonies.
Hits such as Left Hand Free, Tesselate, Every Other Freckle and Matilda were thoroughly enjoyed by the crowd who danced and sung along to every word and note. Each song was performed with precision and gravitas by the band. They never once moved from their original positions, letting the lighting display create the energy for them. Whoever designed and created the lighting for this show deserves the highest accolades. Each song featured it’s very own lighting arrangement, perfectly in sync with the music and both the colour and patterned graphics on the wall of the stage behind them embodying the emotion of the song. Energetic sections had lights dancing across the stadium in the manner of fireworks going off, also evoked by the gunshot-like beats created by the drummer. Then, at dramatic changes in the music, the stage would suddenly be shrouded in darkness with only smoky silhouettes of the band visible.
Alt-J’s music has always seemed reminiscent me of Gregorian chants and one particular moment reinforced this, a they performed a voice-only harmony with white lights shining directly down on them, like heavenly shafts of light.
Having already played most of their singles, the latter part of the set was filled with a variety of other songs from both albums and the constant stream of vocal chanting and huge instrumentals became a little monotonous after a while. Perhaps not helped by the distraction of a helium balloon shaped liked Dorothy The Dinosaur that floated about the stadium before ending up on stage where Joe Newman tied it to his microphone stand for a short while.
However the encore ended with blockbuster hit Breezeblocks, causing the stadium to heave into movement, those in seats running down to the barrier to dance and one girl even hopping straight over the barrier to join the crowd. Whether fans of Gregorian chants or not, there’s no doubt that for Alt-J fans, this show had been akin to a religious experience.