Back You are here: Home Reviews Live Review: ALT-J (∆) @ Hordern Pavilion, Sydney 31.07.2013

Live Review: ALT-J (∆) @ Hordern Pavilion, Sydney 31.07.2013

ALT-J

I don’t know the reason behind Alt-J’s band name but I do know that keying alt + j into my Macbook creates this symbol: ∆. Officially it’s the Greek letter for Delta but us simpletons can just call it a triangle, can’t we?

Urban legend tells us hipsters love triangles. Amusingly, this folklore became fact at Alt-J’s concert on Wednesday night when many in the hipster-heavy crowd shaped pyramids with their palms to salute the quartet’s arrival on stage. It was a moment in passing that mirrored a small-scale Jay-Z concert, or perhaps an Illuminati pact. But in reality, what everyone was there to see was something much less sinister and a little more ­blissful; Alt-J’s one of few Splendour In The Grass sideshows. Predictably, Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion was sold out. 

On a serene stage festooned with a forest of standing lights, the foursome involving Joe Newman (guitar/vocals), Gwil Sainsbury (guitar/bass), Thom Green (drums) and Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboard) politely filed in behind their instruments to the conflicting tune of Tyga’s ‘Rack City’. The heavy weight jam of the hip-hop sphere seemed off balance with the band’s character but in retrospect it was a suggestion of the buzzing-bass lines the band would deliver later on.

Pictures: ALT-J (∆), Snakadaktal @ Hordern Pavilion, Sydney.

ALT-J

Photo: Sarah Paddon

By the time Alt-J had perhaps prematurely peaked with ‘Tessellate’, at song number three, it was clear people genuinely react to Alt-J in a free loving, Woodstock kind of way. Folks were good-natured in sharing dance space with others. It seemed everyone preferred to feel their way through the music. Alt-J’s show was like meditation for kids too cool to try yoga. Spiritual and hypnotic movement seemed commonplace among the 5000 there but contrasted severely with the foursome’s demeanour on stage. They remained firm and captive to their craft. 

Throughout the concert’s one-hour duration, Alt-J didn’t present any affected antics on stage that one might expect from a sprightlier rock item. Most likely still in awe of the success they’ve amassed so early on in their career, they never had much to say either, other than the unavoidable “We’re really happy to be here” formalities. Which was easily excusable. The music and the atmosphere’s flowing energy spoke enough for the band’s very popular reputation.

ALT-J

Photo: Sarah Paddon

Despite their reserve, the band summoned a sultry mood with their rendition of Kylie Minogue’s ‘Slow’. It was the compulsory alternative-band-covers-pop-song-for-ironic-valuemoment in the show. Quite the smooth rendition though, it spread deliciously over a mash-up of beats by Dr Dre. The song’s lyrics held particular potency when the indisputable scent of marijuana smoked over the crowd. “Slow down and dance with me” indeed. 

Highlights in musicality were anticipated and delivered with profusion. Beautiful trickling keys were delivered by Unger-Hamilton in ‘Something Good’ over the song’s hip-shaking beat and the 80’s synth of ‘Dissolve Me’ electrified a mellowed out mood set by other songs like ‘Breezeblocks’. In many moments the band harmonised their vocals in a howling effect that rang with ethereal vibrations. They often paused for dramatic effect too, unleashing the power of silence, a space that hung briefly in suspension before it was filled with the crowd’s enthusiasm. During ‘Matilda’ this couldn’t be helped, audience participation became essential in filling out the chorus with aching gusto.

ALT-J

Photo: Sarah Paddon

What the four British fellas essentially delivered was an unbending live translation of their debut album An Awesome Wave. The band served up the Mercury Prize-winning record without adding extra flavour, besides the extra bass a live sound system guarantees. If any complaints were made, overbearing crowd satisfaction drowned them out.

Their record hammered three nails into Triple J’s Hottest 100 last year, hearing all these songs back-to-back was similar to feeling satisfied after overeating on Christmas day. Appetites for Alt-J were filled.

Confidence and greater presence on stage, I’m sure, will come with the long career evidently ahead of them. 

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