Alt-J Bring An Awesome Wave of Color and Sound to Pittsburgh Review + Photos: alt-J @ Stage AE 8/12/18
PITTSBURGH, PA- Creating an interesting mix of experimental indie and art rock, Alt-J performed to a massive crowd in the Steel City last Wednesday night with dazzling onstage visuals. With their current tour centered around their third studio album, RELAXER, the trio from Leeds put on one of the more visually stunning and musically sound performances Stage AE has seen in quite some time.
Being one of the more interesting success stories to have emerged in 2013, Alt-J’s rise to popularity seemingly erupted over night with their breakout hit, “Breezeblocks”. Although their haunting and interesting sound polarized some at first, Alt-J’s music continued to grow and grow on listener’s ears until their tracks made their way onto mainstream radio. This eventually led Alt-J to become one of the biggest and most well-known modern indie bands on the planet, packing stadiums globally and obtaining prime festival slots.
Now, five years have passed since these U.K. rockers first came to light and their musical prowess drew thousands to the outside portion of Stage AE to witness firsthand what an Alt-J show is all-about. Opening with “Deadcrush”, a song that bolsters a smooth bass line and some badass synth all revolving around Joe Newman’s eery vocals, Alt-J had hypnotized the crowd, having then nodding their heads along to the rhythm, their senses fused with the sick displays of LED lighting.
Following the opener, Alt-J immediately dove into another banger of a track, “Fitzpleasure”. A track that bolsters some heavy synth work, the drop in the song when Newman finishes out each verse is so badass. The display of enticing red strobes that shimmered and expanded as each note rang out really added to the killer atmosphere. Although the trio showed very little emotion when they performed (much like Radiohead, who many say Alt-J models their artistry after), I gathered that their live sets are generally more about the auditory aspect and how the flashing light pillars surrounding all three of them enhance the crowd’s imagination and sense of awe to run wild.
Performing other favorites live such as, “Taro”, “In Cold Blood”, “Tesselate “, and “Every Other Freckle”, just to name a few, Alt-J live sonics were as rich and spellbinding as their studio albums. I particularly enjoyed when Newman’s guitar solo rang out during the ending of “Every Other Freckle”, which could be heard throughout much of the bay area surrounding the outside venue. Although this was a definite top highlight for me, I don’t think anything could compare to the encore Alt-J ended with.
Coming back on stage after originally closing with “Left Hand Free”, the trio was greeted with tumultuous applause from the crowd of over 6,000. Beginning the encore with the intro track off of their critically acclaimed debut album An Awesome Wave, Newman and the guys went straight into “3WW” from Relaxer. A more laid back and airy song, “3WW” was the perfect lead-in to their final, and most anticipated, song, “Breezeblocks”. When Newman softly sang the first lyrics and the guitar cords came in, the packed audience could barely contain their excitement. Having a great buildup throughout and the presence of some perfectly dark overtones, Alt-J left fans hungrily wanting more by the time the dudes took their leave.
With a setlist that comprised of songs from their entire discography, Alt-J’s hour and half display of technicality and showmanship proved to me why they are constantly being placed in a league far above the rest. For a band that never seems satisfied with being at the top of their craft, Alt-J continues to climb higher and higher on the musical spectrum.
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