Slowly fading onto the O2 Arena stage, alt-J are thunderous; their fans a sea.
In what may be the most visually appealing gig I have ever attended, alt-J certainly put on an awesome show. As part of the 10th Anniversary O2 gigs, I had high hopes for alt-J; to think that a band that I hadn’t previously considered to be ‘popular’ had shared a stage with the likes of Ed Sheeran, Sir Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Kanye, and Beyoncé (to name a few.) It’s a remarkably impressive feat, and I’d like to extend my sincerity to the band when I claim what a fantastic show it was. The fans came in droves to the sold-out O2 show, with members from Germany, Spain, the US, and other cross-national countries making an appearance, with young fans, older fans, and families; it was wholesome.
Commencing with the now iconic opening of 3WW, alt-J suddenly appeared on a dark stage, with a spotlight beaming on each of the trio. They appeared surreal and ghostly, and I immediately realised that this gig was going to be dreamlike throughout; I’ll return to the visuals later in the review, but do be aware that they were incredible. Proceeding into the set with Dissolve Me, engulfed by lights that offered the illusion of being underwater (“she makes the sound the sea makes to calm me down,”) as well as all-time favourites Breezeblocks (surrounded by yellow “cetirizine” lights,) and Left Hand Free, the audience were eating out of alt-J’s palm.
Lights. Sounds. Stage. Everything, from a technical standpoint, was spot on; from a fan’s point of view, it was extraordinary. I really take my hat off to the creators behind this, and I heartily recommend all those reading this to check out our photography page (https://wavebyte.co.uk/photography/) for some of the pictures I managed to capture. When reviewing a gig, I tend to observe three major aspects; the sound, the look, and the interaction. For the look, alt-J hit the nail on the head, nail in the coffin, coffin in the dirt. Brilliant.
I’m really at a loss as to whether to chalk this down to a 4.5, or a simple 4. No gig is perfect, but this was excellent. The only negatives I can really discern fall into these latter two categories; sound and interactivity. Alt-J have a naturally bassy sound; Bloodflood., Dissolve Me, and Tessellate are good examples of this. However, during some moments it was difficult to truly appreciate the more delicate elements of alt-J’s sound, such as harmonising vocals, due to the overwhelming bass. I must also admit that when they finally performed the dreaded Hit Me Like That Snare, it was immensely better live than recorded; it sounded a little different as well, not as distorted – this is the version that should have been released.
Finally, audience interaction. I’m not too sure what to say about this one; as I’ve said, the band appeared out of this world, like a piece of art to be admired. Alt-J have never been overly talkative. Fans will recall the interview they did when first releasing their debut album wherein the interviewer asked frontman, Joe Newman, a question, only for the band to respond, “He doesn’t speak.” With this in mind, I wasn’t expecting too much interaction, but there wasn’t even acknowledgement for the audience until three songs in when keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton finally asked “LONDON! How are we doing?” He only spoke two more times, and it would’ve been nice for a little more, for instance during Newman’s guitar changes – instead, these were rapidly performed towards the end of every song.
Overall, a great gig. I’m really glad I went, and I would encourage any alt-J fan to try and see them. Those of you who do not really see the appeal to alt-J, or even claim to dislike their music, I urge you to give them a second chance; you may just not have found the right song. I said in my review for Relaxer that for me, alt-J are synonymous with summer, and this remains true; a mid-June gig after a nice, warm London day – there’s nothing more summer-like to me.
4.5 / 5 Bytes.