Review: Alt-J at the O2 Academy, Bournemouth

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Dazzling

With a beautiful array of lights and a stellar set list, Alt-J really is one of the most spectacular live acts.

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Having played the Brighton Centre two nights before and marking the end of a whole run of festivals across the world, Alt-J have barely stopped since the release of RELAXER. With the appropriately rocky Blaenavon supporting, the venue was full to the brim as the triangle-loving trio returned to Bournemouth for the first time in two years as part of their seaside tour.

Opening with ‘3WW‘ and ‘Something Good’ from their latest and first albums respectively, though exceptionally well performed I doubt that anyone could focus on anything other than the lighting. It’s not often that I’m at a gig in a venue which can hold nearly 2,000 people, and so I’ve never really experienced just what lighting can bring to music. The trio rarely moved, save for their disappearance offstage before the encore, but seemingly for good reason as I fear they would have disrupted the lasers shooting around them, or blocked the vertical displays where the lights were coordinated with the beat of the music, even been in the wrong places for when spotlights shone up at Joe Newman and Gus Unger-Hamilton’s faces, á la Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, something which added so much to the already incredible music. Even the colours of the lighting used were so seemingly carefully considered, with the entire stage lit up in pink for ‘Every Other Freckle’, well suited to the evocatively erotic hook of “Devour me / Devour me / If you really think that you can stomach me”

The balance of songs leant more towards those from An Awesome Wave, which is surprising given their latest album is just over three months old, although there were certain songs which had to be played or it really just would not have felt right, like ‘Breezeblocks’ and ‘Tessellate’ which, in fact, were two of the most popular and well-received songs of the evening. It’s understandable that the setlist would lean more towards their debut album (after all, it’s the where some of their most well-known songs come from), however much like their June gig at London’s O2 Arena I do wish they’d been a little more adventurous and intricate in their delivery of their songs by expanding from three to an entire orchestra as per the album recordings. Perhaps being careful to not overdo it what with the already extensive and impressive lighting, and logistically it would have been a nightmare, but a little more than the three of them at their instruments in a very Pet Shop Boys fashion would have been more musically exciting.

That said, the show really was a performance in terms of vocals and lighting, and the setlist seemed to be perfectly curated. With ‘Bloodflood’ and ‘Matilda‘ in the middle of the show and ending with ‘Fitzpleasure’ before going off stage, there really was not any need for them to wait for long as chants of an encore began before they had even disappeared. Closing with ‘Left Hand Free’ and ‘Breezeblocks’, perhaps the perfect encore songs, I doubt anyone left without knowing they had just witnessed one of the most spectacular live acts of the year.

Check out their video for ‘3WW’ below.

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Politics and International Relations graduate, Live Editor 2016-18, now a semi-functional adult and journalist. Fan of cats, gigs and a tea lover - find me rambling about the above @cmkavanagh on Twitter.

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