Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

alt-J - Alexandra Palace, London 24/09/14

26 September 2014, 13:40 | Written by Sarah Joy

Reportedly jostling with Aphex Twin for a number one album this week and having sold out the 10,000 strong Alexandra Palace in roughly ten minutes, alt-J are a band who seem to have traversed the difficult second album hurdle with ease. A remarkable feat, given that they have not only mollified the expectations that came with wining the Mercury Music Award back in 2012, but the Leeds math rock band have also staggeringly made it from blogosphere obscurity to Radio 1 A List status in just two years.

Alexandra Palace is their biggest headline show to date, and it feels very much like the next chapter for a band on the cusp of bigger things. After all, they've just announced they will be playing London’s cavernous O2 in January - they're definitely moving up a league in capacity terms at least. Opening with their new album's lead single "Hunger of the Pines", the band have evidently learnt from their breakthrough An Awesome Wave that haunting vocal theatrics work fully to their advantage.

Lead singer Joe Newman has a voice that is instantly recognisable but still dramatic, as it creeps out from four backlit silhouettes thrown upstage. In honesty, Newman often sings as if he has a tissue stuck in his airways, but this is kind of part of their muffled magic. Their drummer Thom Green doesn’t use cymbals, just another aspecct to alt-J that feels slightly eccentric and complex.

What with the famous Miley Cryus sample purring "I am a female rebel" dead on the drop and the waves of guitars breaking, it is difficult not to get swept up in it all. You would never guess from the slick start that this was a band that suffered a mishap back in February when original member, Gwil Sainsbury, did a shock exit. Everyone needn’t of worried; a seamless replacement has been found in touring bassist Cameron Knight, and in fact, the band have never sounded fuller.

With all the demand to deliver on, alt-J are understandably trying to step it up a notch in terms of performance. Flashing lights, dissolving visuals and phantom pop star starlets; they have certainly been flexing their experimental muscles. Despite promoting follow up This Is All Yours, the band wisely choose to belt out crowd-pleasers from their debut. "Fitzpleasue" caused a frenzy to erupt and the more dedicated followers put their finger triangles aloft for the breakdown. The older songs, such as "Something Good" and love song "Matilda", got similar reactions, and at points the crowds singing eclipsed the band’s own volume.

After touring for such extensive periods, it is expected alt-J would carry off their repertoire with ease, and the only stumble came in a false start at the point of new track "Every Other Freckle". A polite “Take two!” from a sheepish Newman saw them try again and this time they nailed the hounding obsession behind the lyrics. Laughing slightly whilst singing “turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp packet”, Newman seemed to know he threw a curveball with this comeback single.

With their name literally meaning change, it's no wonder that alt-J are pushing forward at a rate of knots. It’ll be interesting to see if they can keep up with themselves.

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