Concert Review: Alt-J showcases musical prowess and energy in live show
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 16, 2013 02:09
Despite the fact that Alt-J, or ∆, is new to the music scene, the band’s breakout was remarkable due to its unconventional genre, originality and unique sound. The newly emerging British alternative art-rock band Alt-J has already attained considerable success merely months after the release of its first album. After playing at several high-profile music festivals this year, including Lollapalooza and Reading and Leeds, Alt-J began an intense U.S. tour. Passing through various cities across the country, the band finally made it to Boston, playing a concert at the Bank of America Pavilion on Sept. 13.
The recently formed indie-folk group Lord Huron opened the show. Though they have a very different style from Alt-J, Lord Huron emphasized its sound with heavy reliance on percussion, adequately preparing the audience for the main act. Despite a fairly long set, Lord Huron maintained a high level of energy during its performance, leaving the audience enthusiastic and fully ready for Alt-J.
During the show, the order of Alt-J’s set list was noteworthy. After setting the mood with the song “Intro,” the band moved onto its famous hit “Fitzpleasure,” which generated even more excitement among the crowd with its upbeat tempo and innovative structure. The lighting and stage effects were outstanding, merging perfectly with the beat and creating hypnotic visuals for concertgoers to enjoy. Then, the band played another of its top hits, “Tessellate,” which also garnered a positive response since almost everyone knew the song word-for-word.
After their powerful, lively start, Alt-J later chose to focus on slower songs, including “Matilda,” “Buffalo” and “Interlude I.” Remarkably, although these selections were quite different from the opening numbers, the ambience during the show remained more or less the same. The band closed its act with the upbeat “Taro,” and after it was over, the audience immediately called the band back for an encore. Alt-J played two more songs, ending with its hit song “Breezeblocks.”
It is important to note that it is more challenging for Alt-J to play live because their sound is typically easier to create in the studio. Drummer Thom Green delivered an exceptional performance, using a tambourine and cowbell instead of cymbals to produce electronic-sounding beats. Overall, Alt-J refused to simplify any song arrangements, which made listeners feel like they were listening to the actual record. The audience got to hear even the most complex parts of songs, including three-voice a capella harmonies. The downside, however, was that the band added nothing new to the recorded versions of the songs — there was no room for improvisation or different arrangements.
The concert’s main flaw was its length: It was far too short. Since Alt-J has only one studio album released, it would have been unrealistic for fans to expect a longer show. Still, Alt-J didn’t even play its whole album — nor did they play any cover songs, which would have been easy additions to the set list. Because of this, the audience ultimately left feeling dissatisfied.
Alt-J’s live performances have received some negative reviews due to the immobility of the members on the stage and the brevity of their concerts. Sometimes compared to famous names like Radiohead, Alt-J has been criticized for not living up to these respected and established groups. But critics must keep in mind that Alt-J is only now gaining widespread success; it is not fair to compare them to bands that were on the music scene long before they were. Alt-J is definitely one of the most inventive and original bands right now. Considering the success it has already achieved, we can certainly expect a promising musical presence in the future from Alt-J.