Live Review: Are alt-J becoming outdated?

SEC Armadillo, Glasgow
21st October 2018

alt-J have yet to prove themselves with the performance of their latest album Reduxer. The well known British indie-rock band started their musical journey when their 2012 debut album An Awesome Wave became a worldwide masterpiece, bringing them the Mercury Prize as well as international fame. Today the band are still known for their incredible musical abilities which perhaps puts pressure on their live performances. But can alt-J live up to the expectations their new albums sets?

The venue is quite different than expected; it is made up only of seats with no space to dance which seemed illogical due to their album being so danceable. When the audience is seated, the sound of Joe’s guitar, Thom’s drums and Gus’ keyboard start blasting throughout the venue. Without any announcement or introduction, the band start their show of an hour and a half, performing a total of nineteen songs – with new tracks as well as the ‘golden oldies.’

When the electronic hip-hop track ‘Deadcrush’ starts bashing through the speakers some of the listeners gain the courage to lift up out of their seats. Without a doubt, alt-J show off their extreme musicality and diversity in music. Their technical skills are on point and together they manage to find a perfect mixture of instruments and electronic sounds, creating a solid indie-rock experience. The music is as magical as always and the aesthetic chemistry of the ensemble is beyond great expertise. The performance is supported by an incredible LED-light show making all the eyes in the audience twinkle.

Although the music they produce is mesmerizing, this time the band is less so. With not much time for introductions, the concert turns into a ‘hello-goodbye’ experience. It feels like alt-J wants the concert to be over as soon as possible; their dancing is hardly noticeable and there is a lack of energy and interaction with the crowd. Not only their stage presence but also their vocals are shockingly disappointing. Alone Joe and Gus sound as beautiful and pure as always, but this ends abruptly when they join their singing skills together. The sound is far from pure and they are definitely off key. Something suggests that they are not able to hear each other, because if they did, they would have used a different pitch.

The end of the concert is near and the band asks us to rise up and start dancing with them for the last 3 songs. Finally, the audience is able to feel what has been missing all the time: the connection between them and the band. That thrilling feeling you want to get when seeing your favourite band live, that feeling like you are on a musical drug which makes every sound louder and purer. It was, therefore, a pity that the band could not manage to give everybody a piece of that drug. Do we have to say goodbye to this magical band? Or will they surprise us with a comeback next year? Until that time, it sadly must be concluded that the light show was more intriguing than the performance itself.

Image: Henry Laurisch via Wikimedia Commons

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