Gig Review: Alt-J

The surrounding streets were filled with political fervor as Alt-J took to the stage last Thursday, the eve of the Scottish Independence referendum in Glasgow. There was chaos in the rest of the city, with riots and hordes of flag waving demonstrators taking over George Square, but for a couple of hours that night, the O2 Academy offered a neutral ground of peace and tranquility where voters momentarily forgot about sides, voting and politics as Leeds’ finest indie trio took to the stage.

Unlike most concerts I’ve been to, there was no jostling or fighting in the crowd. In fact, there was barely any movement at all, as the mass of Glaswegian teenagers stood transfixed, listening to Joe Newman’s distinctive, crooning voice.The band played a balanced mix of old and new tracks, with debut album An Awesome Wave being performed in its entirety. A reworked, slowed down version of Fitzpleasure being a particular highlight. The few tracks that the band played off of their second and most recent album, This is All Yours went down very well, despite only having been released this past Monday. This year saw the departure of Gwil Sainsbury from the group, an amicable split that left fan and critic alike fearing what would happen to the group’s characteristic bass- heavy sound. Our worries were laid to rest by the efforts of live replacement bassist Cameron Knight, who also took over extensive sampler and guitar duties, as that distinctive, smooth rumbling bass echoed through the old ballroom.

The light show was spectacular, entrancing the audience and enhancing the already phenomenal sound of the live music. It was an intimate show, and Gus Unger-Hamilton on the keyboards would stop every few songs and shyly introduce a song by saying something like, “Maybe you guys will know this one”. He was obviously completely underestimating the number of diehard Alt-J fans in the crowd, all throwing up the signature triangle hand sign and singing along to every inane lyric like, “I’m gonna … turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp packet” (Every Other Freckle, This is All Yours).

Overall it was a fantastic performance, and although the set ended half an hour ahead of schedule, the gig was a refreshing change from the political scenes occuring outside.

Words: Sophie Vandenbroucke

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