Alt-J’s performance at the Bournemouth International Centre on 1st December marked the second leg of their seven-date UK arena tour and somewhat inevitably, the indie rock quartet delivered an awesome, feel-good experience. This was the third time I had seen the band live following two previous festival appearances and it eclipsed both of those comfortably, albeit in a modest, yet practically full venue that was perhaps too modest for a band of alt-J’s calibre and popularity.
Preceding the indie rock outfit was a sombre but accomplished set by the relatively unknown vocalist Ghostpoet, whose latest album ‘Shedding Skin’ was recently shortlisted for the Mercury Prize and is sure to grow in popularity in the near future. Further support was provided by electronically-inspired goth-rock band The Horrors and for what they lacked acoustically they made up for with vigour and a set that was visually superb.
Likewise, as I have come to expect when watching alt-J live, they ineluctably deliver sets that are aesthetically stunning, and tonight was certainly no exception, a credit to the BIC. Alongside every song, a stunning digital backdrop was paired with immaculately choreographed lighting that resulted in a visually stimulating experience for the now animated audience. A perfect example of this, and a personal highlight of mine, occurred early on in the set, when ‘Bloodflood pt.II’ aptly followed ‘Bloodflood’ and wowed the crowd with dynamic, ‘blood-red’ graphics and vibrant lighting, beautifully complementing two of the band’s best and most thought-provoking tracks.
Throughout the performance, which featured the majority of the band’s most popular tracks from This Is All Yours and Mercury Prize winning album An Awesome Wave, frontman Joe Newman’s’ vocals and Thom Green’s percussion were near-impeccable as ever, expertly supported by Gus Unger-Hamilton, who thanked the audience at every available opportunity. Amongst some lesser-known tracks from the second album, such as ‘The Gospel of John Hurt’ and the slightly underwhelming ‘Lovely Day’, were crowd-pleasers ‘Left Hand Free’, the anthemic ‘Matilda’,’Tessellate’ and the unforgettable ‘Taro’. Collectively, these more than succeeded in creating an impassioned and energetic atmosphere within the venue.
As the set drew to a close, the less-than-dramatic encore began with the spine-tingling ‘Warm Foothills’ and was quickly juxtaposed with the breathtaking, Miley Cyrus-sampling ‘Hunger of the Pine’, both of which were again visually intense. Ultimately, fans’ favourite ‘Breezeblocks’ completed the encore and provided a fitting end to a wonderful night.