LIVE REVIEW: Alt-J @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl


Alt-J @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl – Thursday 7th of December.
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Words by Matilda Elgood.

British 3-piece, Alt-J have been touring the country in celebration of their third album, RELAXER. Stopping over in Melbourne, Alt-J attracted a huge crowd to Sidney Myer Music Bowl, with US supports from bad-ass girl gang, Warpaint. Bearing the bitter cold rain, audiences filled out the outdoor amphitheatre.

In an attempt to stay out of the rain, punters filled the spaces between stalls and the stage, encouraging members of the stall seating to be on the feet before the main course of the night took the stage. Alt-J was welcomed to the stage with an incredible lighting show. The frost in the air created a natural smoke machine perfectly accommodating the striking blue and white lights across the three members. Alt-J opened with lead single for RELAXER, “3WW”. The lengthy intro of the song with its minimal-style sound had the crowd mesmerized. The harmonised vocals followed nearly 2 minutes in, easing the crowd into a setlist full of visual and audio pleasures.

Moving quickly back to their roots, Alt-J launched into “Something Good”. Sticking with the theme of their first album, they follow up with crowd pleaser, “Tessellate”. Alt-J have created a trio of albums across four years that seamlessly intertwine in a setlist. Although you can hear distinct progressions in RELAXER, the familiar style Alt-J is iconic for is carried throughout them all, allowing them to grow as musicians yet pay homage to their beginnings and satisfy early fans. “Deadcrush”, from 2017’s RELAXER, played next, carrying on the high energy from “Tessellate”, allowing crowds to forget their rain soaked clothes and frozen cold fingers.

Jumping between the three albums for a huge 19 song setlist, Alt-J did not forget the crowd favourites. “Hunger of the Pine”, a truly amazing harmonic delight. Admittedly, it was disappointing to not have Miley Cyrus come on stage to sing “I’m a female rebel”, the iconic female backing of the song. Although, we’ll just have to wait for the day our dream collab is performed before our eyes. “Every Other Freckle” another favourite from the Leeds outfit’s second album played next. The heavier beats from drummer, Thom Green, allowed audiences to ditch the familiarity of a soft sway for a something that can be more classified as an actual dance. The lighting on stage created a shadow across the drummer, which surprisingly made him more interesting to watch. A mysterious drummer hidden in the shadows, whom I would later learn is partially deaf. Amazing to think such an impressive musician can barely hear a thing without the use of his hearing aids.

“Taro”, one of the band’s songs that best displays their use of harmonies. One could almost mistake the harmonies between lead singer, Joe and keyboardist, Gus for a use of a loop pedal. As a former chorister at his school in Ely, there is no surprises as to how well Gus is able to follow lead vocals by Joe and harmonize perfectly alongside him. Even in the harsh cold of an outdoor stage, the vocals went unscathed. The only fault that can be paid to the sound of the night is the acoustics failing to reach further up the lawn. Something you might not expect from an amphitheatre like setting, however this could be the pay off of the weather conditions.

The night ended (or so we thought) on a high of hit “Fitzpleasure”. A clear peak in the band’s use of riffs. The raw sound of the bassline against the clean vocals creates a really interesting juxtaposition, which was incredibly amplified in the live set. Giving audiences the opportunity to appreciate the various layers to the song as it is performed before their eyes. The band left the stage to a cheering crowd begging for an encore. Before too long, Alt-J were back on stage to delight us with another 3 songs including, “Intro (An Awesome Wave)”, “Left Hand Free” and “Breezeblocks”. In true encore fashion, 3 of the UK band’s heaviest and full sounding songs, “Left Hand Free” arguably being one of the most upbeat songs in their discography.

Ending on a high, “Breezeblocks” played out with a crowd singalong to “Please don’t go, I’ll eat you whole I love you so, I love you, so I love you so”, repeatedly until the end of the song.

An Alt-J live show is both a treat to watch and hear. Every element is crafted to an incredibly high standard. Which is reflected in their music itself. Alt-J are set to embark on a tour across New Zealand then dates across Europe well into the new year.