Gig Review by Cat Onisko with Gig Photography by Drew Kirkland

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I became an instant fan of alt-J ever since I stumbled across their debut single ‘Tessellate’ back in 2011. The way this 4-piece manage to effortlessly combine folksy yet forceful vocals and guitar riffs over layers of sometimes ethereal, sometimes downright explosive synths and percussion, is perhaps one of many reasons alt-J can seemingly do no wrong. Their debut album ‘An Awesome Wave’ scooped the Barclaycard Mercury Prize for Best Album as well as being named BBC 6Music’s Album of The Year following global critical acclaim.

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Tonight is the first night alt-J play live since the official release of their highly anticipated second album ‘This Is All Yours’, and after listening to it in its entirety the day before they were due to play at Wolverhampton’s Civic Hall, I was completely in awe at this second instalment of their unparalleled fusion of folk, rock and electro-chill.

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Support tonight came from former Burberry model Marika Hackman, someone I didn’t know a great deal about. Relatively new on the indie-folk scene, Hackman breaks folk down to its bare bones, and rebuilds it again adding her own signature style with subtle layers of grunge and the odd synthy drumbeat. Her voice is absolutely captivating; enchanting and uplifting yet harbouring a haunting melancholic side. Keep an eye on this girl, you’ll no doubt be hearing a lot more of this incredibly talented 22 year old.

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I wasn’t sure how alt-J’s unambiguous sound would come across live, but as the lights dimmed and smoke began to fill the room my thoughts were firmly on what was about to be; an utterly spectacular performance needing no theatricals, no introductions, just 4 guys dressed in black and an army of uproarious fans.

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As a band of red lights pulsed in time with the opening hypnotic beat of ‘Hunger of The Pine’, the crowd roared with delight as Joe Newman stepped up to the mic and delivered a goose-bump inducing vocal performance with keyboardist/vocalist Gus Unger-Hamilton accompanying with ambient synths and that now infamous sample of Miley Cyrus’s ‘I’m a female rebel’ line ringing out, which oddly, out of the context of its original song works so well on this track.

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The set list tonight was a glorious blend of old and new, with older tracks such as ‘Fitzpleasure’, ‘Something Good’, ‘Tessellate’, ‘Matilda’ and personal favourite ‘Taro’ all making an appearance much to the sheer delight of the baying crowd. ‘Left Hand Free’ is something of a wild card on their new album, with it’s soulful horn sections, fierce guitar riffs, and grandiose organ solo’s. The guys performed it with such tenacity and prowess, proving that alt-J can strut if they want to. New tracks included ‘Every Other Freckle’, with it’s oriental samples, heavy bass and promiscuous lyrics, and ‘Warm Foothills’, a wonderfully stripped back folk song featuring the aforementioned vocals of Marika Hackman.

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Newly appointed bassist/guitarist Cameron Knight proved his worth on stage tonight, alternating from guitar to bass to sampler and a little shake of the maracas thrown in for good measure. Drummer Thom Green was also on top form tonight and really pulled together the already tight set these guys seemingly play with ease.

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The set ended with ‘The Gospel of John Hurt’ from their second album, a folk inspired song with beautiful harmonies . As is customary the ‘WE WANT MORE’ chants began almost immediately after the band departed. As they filed back on stage for the encore the crowd went wild (myself included), before settling into a slow sashay as alt-J played the most heartbreakingly beautiful deconstructed version of Bill Withers’ ‘Lovely Day’. ‘Naro’ from their second album followed and the night finally came to a close with ‘Breezeblocks’. The lyrics ‘please don’t go, please don’t go, I love you so, I love you so’ were especially poignant. Don’t worry alt-J, we’re not going anywhere, we love you so.

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4 Responses to “alt-J ∆ + Marika Hackman at The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, UK – 22nd September 2014”

  1. alt-J ∆ + Marika Hackman @ The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – 22/09/2014 | The Letter C Says:

    […] can view my original article for Gig Junkies and view more photos here Share this:TwitterFacebookGoogleLike this:Like Loading… alt-j alternative concert electro […]

  2. alt-J ∆ + Marika Hackman at The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, UK – 22nd September 2014 | The Letter C Says:

    […] and be there all over again. You can read my original article for Gig Junkies and view more photos here. Share this:TwitterFacebookGoogleLike this:Like […]

  3. alt-J ∆ + Marika Hackman at The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, UK - Drew Kirkland : Photography Says:

    […] alt-J ∆ + Marika Hackman at The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, UK – 22nd September 2014 Posted on 4 January, 2015 by DrewEvents, Music […]

  4. Drew Kirkland : Photography : alt-J ∆ + Marika Hackman at The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, UK Says:

    […] alt-J ∆ + Marika Hackman at The Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, UK – 22nd September 2014 […]

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