There’s been a lot of hype around Alt-J since their 2012 debut An Awesome Wave. The album won them the UK’s coveted Mercury prize and have been touted as creative pioneers in a music industry bogged down by the same-same cookie cutter sound. So with the release of their sophomore album, This is All Yours, in September, we all waited eagerly to see what was in store. The album was received in a cultish fashion by fans. The critics (for the most part) were pleased, even with some of the departure tracks (“Left Hand Free”). So I was curious to see what we would be getting with their performance at The Greek. Was it going to be a show for the fans or a this-is-us-take-it-or-leave-it?
The house lights went down on what was a subdued audience and then a fog filled stage shone with a fan of red lights highlighting a simplistic stand holding keys, two guitars and a drum kit, slightly raised, off in the corner. Then several notes rang out and the lights pulsed. That’s when Alt-J came on the stage; slowly taking their assigned places at their instruments. The pulsing lights and beats continued and immediately it became clear what song we were going to hear, the first single off their new album, “Hunger of The Pine.” The audience got on their feet immediately, several hoots rang out, but mostly everyone was grooving to the pulsing beat. Alt-J then rolled right into the song that really won over the hearts of millions of fans, “Fitzpleasure.” That’s also when you could hear the uniqueness (some call quirky) side of Joe Newman’s voice. He stood center stage with lights swirling around him, perfectly timed to each beat, each note that was sung, and each pause in the sparse music. The audience was on their feet too, vibe-ing out and singing to one of their favorite tracks while enjoying the flurry of lights and music coming from the stage. And that’s how the entire show continued. It was a visual treat of perfectly choreographed stage lights to mood centric music. It was hard to tell if there was much emotion coming from the band outside of the rise and fall of the music and lights. In fact, most of the time the band was backlit with faces obscured by shadows and could only been seen when shown on the big screens flanking the stage.
Alt-J rolled from one song to the next in their 14-song set, only occasionally engaging the audience with a “thank you” or a “we’re so glad to be back in L.A.” and at one point threw out what I think was a shirt. But mostly, they seemed utterly determined on creating an experience that was focused on the feeling of their music rather than the performance of the individual members of the band.
The group were perfectly in-sync song after song, with Thom Green on drums driving us all to move while Newman’s voice and harmonies with Gus Unger-Hamilton coaxed us into a trance. Even during “Every Other Freckle” we were so caught up in the mood and effect that the music was creating as it floated off the stage into the open air, that you nearly forgot about the oddity of the lyrics you were singing. “I’m gonna bed into you like a cat beds into a bean bag/Turn you inside out to lick you like a crisp packet….I want every other freckle.” It all made for a show that I could only explain by comparing it to what it might be like to experience a stream of consciousness inside the mind of an artist. There were not specifics, there were no lyrics, there was not posturing and explanations, there was only enticing sounds and emotions. And you know what, it worked. Though some critics may not fully appreciate the “folktronic” sound of Alt-J the fans most definitely dig it. They grooved and danced to “My Left Hand Free” and “Gospel of John Hurt” and went wild for the final song of the four-song encore, “Breezeblocks.” Alt-J came to give to their fans what they wanted and that was what they got; a dreamy, groovy, hip, atmospheric show that will live on in their conscious and unconscious minds.
Check out our photos of Alt-J at the Greek Theatre!
Show Review: Anne-Marie Schiefer
Photography by Dominoe Farris-Gilbert
Want more photos? Check out the photo gallery below!