alt-J’s strength in songwriting shines through nerves in biggest slot of their career

June 29, 2015

Things happened very quickly for alt-J.

Yes, they had been together for a few years by the time that things took off, but it was a far more casual and stuttered existance than the one they were soon to lead. And it wasn’t a trickle of gradual momentum, but rather an accelerated flood. When they were preparing to release their Mercury-winning debut, An Awesome Wave and the industry caught fire of just how good a piece it was, they had to shut themselves away and learn the songs properly.

The group, formed in Leeds, have always been leagues ahead of their peers on record. However, it is the tender matter of having a live show at the same level that has been somewhat of an issue for them. So, following the rip-roaring success of Lionel Richie on the Pyramid Stage, the group stepped up to play the most pertinent set of their career: one that illustrates perfectly just how far they’ve come.

Beginning with the Miley Cyrus-featuring single from their new record in ‘Hunger Of The Pine’, they send the crowd into a trance with their trademark nadir, hypnotic rhythms. Singer Joe Newman and Gus Unger-Hamilton exchange looks and try to supress disbelieving smiles like children. Staring out at thousands in-sync and an orchestra of flags, can you blame them?

Bursting into ‘Fitzpleasure’, they begin to swoop through ‘An Awesome Wave’s’ war chest of hits. It is, however, within these songs and not the pieces from their new record in which we can hear small vocal crags. And with harmonies this distinct and this nuanced, everything needs to be completely on-point. As the set progresses, the nerves cool, and by the time that they burst into ‘This Is All Yours’ ‘Every Other Freckle’, vocal performances are quite brilliant.

And they grow throughout the set, progressively elevating onto another level in front of this monstrous crowd, allowing an intensity to grow organically. It will take a while for alt-J’s live shows to be quite as fantastic as their records, however, the sheer brilliance of their songwriting continues to be their driving force.

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