Alt – J

Alt-JChallenge Stadium
Saturday, July 27, 2013

There was anticipation and the smell of an illegal substance or two in the air at Challenge Stadium on Saturday night, as punters of all ages filed in to catch a glimpse of Mercury award-winners Alt-J. First up, support band City Calm Down, a four-piece electronic group from Melbourne. Opening bands can often go down like a lead balloon at large venues, but this gig seemed to be an exception. The stadium was almost full by the middle of City Calm Down’s set, and the crowd were digging what they had to offer; easy 80’s-inspired electro-rock delivered via some fine musicianship.

At 8.30 on the dot, Alt-J gathered up as much gangster swagger as four lads from Leeds possibly can and cheekily wandered on stage to the sound of Tyga’s Rack City, earning hollering and cheers from an already-loose audience. They launched straight into it, and the packed out stadium became a sea of swaying bodies making triangle shapes in the air.

It was apparent from the very second that the foursome began the a cappella harmonies of Interlude I that their status isn’t just due to some great post-production work on their record – they’ve got the talent and stage presence to back it up. Frontman Joe Newman’s voice is inimitable, a not-so-secret weapon that often proves the divisive factor for the band, with many lauding it and others finding it a little too grating. Gus Unger-Hamilton is a gun on the keys, never missing a stroke despite the pace. Bassist and guitarist Gwil Sainsbury channels a blonde, animated version of Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, and drummer Thom Green continuously shakes things up on drums.

The band ran through their entire catalogue much to the satisfaction of the audience, who understandably lost their shit at tunes like Breezeblocks, Fitzpleasure and signature cover mash-up, Slow Dre. The level of dedication to perform and entertain from each band member was palpable throughout their set – but it’s the song construction that makes Alt-J so different to their alt-rock counterparts; the odd use of percussion, the dub-drop, lyricism that manages to be both hyper-intelligent and unassuming. The four-piece have hit the jackpot formula, and perhaps that’s why An Awesome Wave took so many years to conceive – from teens to middle-aged reminiscent-rockers, from the musically inclined to the straight-up stoners, the crowd bowed down to Alt-J’s mastery.

Perhaps the only complaint of the night was the length of the set – barely an hour – but it’s hardly surprising, considering the band have only released around 45 minutes of material. No doubt that the excessively talented lads will be creating another masterpiece in the near future, and will grace us with their presence again in no time – we can only hope.