LIVE: alt-J @ Electric Ballroom, Camden
A Captivating Performance
If you headed to Camden last night you would've not only been met with the bitter slap of the winter air as you exited the tube station, but with yelps of 'Alt-J tickets! Selling or buying!' as well. Fresh off their capture of the distinguished Mercury Prize, one of the most creative forces in the UK music scene, alt-J, took to the stage of the Electric Ballroom to cause 'An Awesome Wave'.
What the crowd could look forward to was that they were gonna hear all the tracks off this group's impressive debut album, since that's the only material they've released to date. As it turned out, they played it from front-to-back, with just a few of the tracks out of order. Taking their positions in front of the glowing triangle behind them Gus Unger-Hamilton began playing the sombre piano phrase of 'Intro', after which the crisp drums of Thom Green and the fuzzy bass of Gwil Sainsbury, and finally Joe Newman's eccentric vocals, joined in.
It's hard to say what was actually the true crowd-favourite as every track was met with an eruption of applause and whistles. Singles 'Tesselate' and 'Breezeblocks' had the crowd transfixed, with the mesmerising dreamscape of the former, and the cadenced energy of the latter. There was a beautiful prolonged outro tacked onto the end of 'Matilda', as the track was just stripped down to Newman's melodic guitar part, something very pretty.
'Fitzpleasure' and 'Dissolve Me', besides dropping jaws with their monstrous compositions, had moments that portrayed the group's attraction to building adventurous vocal harmonies, something that will get even better over time. After witnessing them live, you appreciate the fine-tuning that must've went into that aspect throughout the recording process, and you also appreciate the impressive range of Newman's vocals, itself an instrument.
With 'Bloodflood' and 'Taro' closing out proceedings the exquisite melodies that this band write are reasserted on the crowd, and most probably continue to float around in their heads on their journeys home, and soundtrack their dreams for the coming night.
Having reached Everest-like heights with their first album, and unprecedented adulation from fans and critics alike, it will be interesting to see how this band from Leeds will evolve and develop their trailblazing sound. Of course, Everest isn't the end-all be-all of heights. There's always space to aim for.
The wave has just begun, brace yourself for when it goes tidal.