Review: Alt-J at Alexandra Palace (24/09/2014)

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Alt-J are musically brilliant, each song off both the debut and sophomore album stands strongly alone, yet flows in a harmony that I haven’t yet found a parallel to. Their performance at Alexandra Palace proved this. Each song, with carefully thought out lighting and the moody presence of the band, ripened the soul. However, there was an overwhelmingly sad feeling that this band had become too big. With an all too large portion of the crowd sprinting desperately in to get a space at the front.

Alexandra Palace as a venue is epic and marvellous, one of my favourite large scale venues. The acoustics and feel of the venue was perfect for Alt-J, they filled every corner of the gigantic hall, and every set of ears on all 10,000 people at the venue were pricked up as the opening bass of ‘Hunger of the Pine’ began.

Support came from Marika Hackman, who set off the concert to a delicious, if slightly sombre, start. Her vocals are smooth and easy listening, and the music itself was enjoyable, but it completely contrasted the buzz that had been building for Alt-J, as well as almost bringing the mood down and making me feel rather melancholy. An odd choice for a support act but, given that she features on their latest record, an understandable one.

The band arrived on stage in a haze of smoke. They stood resolutely, and all that could be made out of them was the outline of them and their instruments. Joe Newman’s vocals are unique and instantly recognisable. He teased the audience, allowing the bass to continue. Newman began quietly, with the cheering and clapping that had welcomed the band onstage quickly died.

The set was over far too quickly. Blasting through their best of both albums, they brought life to their new material in a way that made me love them even more, particularly with thanks to the brass band that joined them on stage. The band quickly relaxed into the concert, removing their emotionless mask to thank the audience in a tone that seemed more genuine than any other artist. Underneath their dickhead hipster facade they are truly a bunch of dorks hiding behind a selection of finely tuned instruments.

By far my favourite tracks performed were ‘Taro’ and ‘Every Other Freckle’, the latter to which an audience member screamed out “Alt-J make me want to lick out a thousand crisp packets”. The band had clearly worked closely with the lighting technicians, ensuring the lights were perfectly coordinated with each bass note.

It was truly a special evening. As their only date at Alexandra Palace and their biggest concert yet (although with their O2 gig coming up its likely to be beaten), it was magical and unique. The band ended on ‘Breezeblocks’, with Newman exclaiming ‘Fuck, I forgot the words’ mid way through, proving that even the band doesn’t know all the lyrics to the songs.

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Head of Events for The Edge magazine. Keen concert goer and angry feminist. Shared recycled oxygen on a 12 hour flight with Foals.

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