luke crawford – sydney conventional centre alt-j 13

Review: alt-J at the International Convention Centre, Sydney, 9th December 2017

Good, but not stunning

When it comes to many alternative acts of this decade, there’s no denying that alt-J has really carved out a niche for themselves.

Riding a tightrope between the atmospheric tendencies of Radiohead, compared with the anthem-like, chart topping poppy sounds of Coldplay, with a dash of folky, cappella Mumford & Sons style thrown in for good measure, the band certainly was made welcome by an ecstatic crowd when they played at the new International Convention Centre.

The crowd were well entertained beforehand by the fun four piece Warpaint, who really set the stage with an energetic performance. It’s always so much fun to discover a new solid warm up act, and this band was no exception. There was blunt simplicity to their rock-out tracks, and an infectious vibe that you couldn’t help but be swept up in and entertained by.

Shortly afterwards, alt-J arrived, taking places within a bizarre stage set up that resembled more of a prison than anything else. However, once the band launched into the chill track ‘3WW’  from their new album Relaxer, the stage came alive with stunning raindrop lighting and a meditative atmosphere.

Following that, the trio launched into several tracks from their debut record An Awesome Wave, which was a welcome change of pace. Immediately, the vibe perked up and the crowd settled in for a couple of solid fan favourites.

However, while the band was certainly performing a fun show, the actual stage and lighting often was so overpowering that it made them difficult to see, which felt quite distancing. A few times though they scaled back the spectacle and allowed the audience to see their faces which really upped the fun factor, such as with the track ‘Matilda.’ That track really left the crowd begging for more.

A few of the newer tracks landed quite well, such as the catchy song ‘In Cold Blood’, and the orchestral number ‘Pleader’, but many of the tracks often landed in the ‘just good’ category. It wasn’t that the songs were bad, or that the band themselves weren’t performing badly, more that many of the songs rarely transcended into a show stopping moment that really stayed you after they’d finished playing.

Adding to this was the very few moments, bar a few, that the band spoke to the audience, which added to the more distanced, ‘going-through-the-motions’ feeling.

Not that this seemed to mind the crowd, who were lapping it up and having a blast. The trio however really came into their own when they returned to the stage to deliver an awesome encore, delivering their biggest hits ‘Left-Hand Free’ and ‘Breezeblocks.’

The latter track was particularly fun, as the band really fed off the excitement of the audience. It was a solid end and the best track of the night, and you could tell they really enjoy playing that track live.

Overall, it was a good performance by the band, but not transcendent into stunning territory. The audience however had a great time, and really, when it comes to playing live that’s all that matters.

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