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Review: Alt-J - Qantas Credit Union Arena, May 2015.

Review: Alt-J - Qantas Credit Union Arena, May 2015.

There was a palpable fervour in the air before Alt-J were anywhere near the stage of the Qantas Credit Union Arena in Sydney on Saturday night. A similar vibe permeated the smaller Enmore Theatre, only as recently as last October. This time there were more bodies in the audience and as the band surged into the intro of ‘Hunger Of The Pine’, the fervour was instantly let loose.

You don’t get the intimacy you got from their earlier, smaller concerts but you get that feeling that you are watching a band that knows exactly what their audience wants and is eager to deliver. And it may sound rudimentary to say it, but the strobe lighting compliments the music in quite simply, a pretty damn rad way. You still marvel at the harmonies, only this time they’re bolstered by spotlights.

Those harmonies were apparent during ‘Fitzpleasure’, just exemplifying how truly unique and just downright talented as vocalists they are. They rarely miss and if they do, it sounds like they were meant to.

As per what seems usual at their gigs, Gus Unger-Hamilton on the keys gave the crowd the words beyond the music, occasionally addressing them between songs and thanking them for their unwavering support. It was always met to instant cheers - I honestly think he could have said, “I have a serious love of cornflakes,” and there would be zero difference in reaction.

‘Matilda’ concluded with an awesome guitar interlude by frontman Joe Newman, complimented subtly by the keys. Everything that Alt-J do has that subtle yet transcendent vibe that make them one of the more interesting bands to emerge in the past three years, so hard for critics to define into one genre.

More than once throughout the night, the thought “how the hell did they do that?” went through my mind. And it always snuck up on me, like I’d just awoken from being hypnotised - Thom Green had some truly astounding moments on the drums that had me completely transfixed by his technique and the subsequent sounds he was creating.

I’ve always loved Joe’s ever so slight movements. I know that there is a much more articulate way of describing it but he has this way of ‘bobbing’ back and forth to great effect. He moves ten percent and the audience responds ten times over. It’s a skill.

The band’s infectious pulse rarely wavered, the mass in the arena consistently moving with the rhythm. The one song that I found a slight shift was ‘Every Other Freckle’, the reaction instant. It was impressive to see thousands of people, dance in a way that I can only describe as unconventional writhing and mostly how I imagine the effect LSD in the 60s had.

The encore started off with their eerie Bill Withers ‘Lovely Day’ cover, slowing it down and they bought it back up by concluding on the familiar ‘Breezeblocks’. The crowd enthusiastically sang “Please don’t go, I love you so, I love you so” when prompted, clearly a self-referential sentiment. 

Overall Alt-J’s eclectic background and influences shine through in every part of the show. The childhood choir and singer-songwriter feels in the vocals, hip-hop in the pulse, and metal in the beats.

Gus told us at the end that it was “memorable” and “even unforgettable” and I would say that most people agreed with him.

Hunger of the Pine
Something Good
Left Hand Free
Dissolve Me
Bloodflood Pt. II
(Ripe & Ruin)
Every Other Freckle
The Gospel of John Hurt

Lovely Day (Bill Withers cover)
Leaving Nara

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