Gig Review by Stuart Lilley with Photography by Chris Ensell

Alt-J

Alt-J welcome you with open arms to their last night of the ‘This Is All Yours’ tour. The men in black are here to defend you from those bitterly ice cold winds & dreariness we have so far had this winter.  Settle down with a glass of Shiraz & relax into this sensory overload of warmth.

Ghostpoet

Ghostpoet

First up was Obaro Ejimiwe, better known as ‘Ghostpoet’, performing hits from his Mercury Prize 2011 shortlisted album, Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam. We heard ‘Liiines’ & ‘Survive It’ as well as others from further albums ‘Some Say I So I Say Light’ & ‘Shedding Skin’.

The Horrors

The Horrors

To the continually growing Nottingham crowd, The Horrors enchanted us with their electronic fairground sounds. We were riding on a ghost-train rollercoaster through ‘Wake Up’, ‘Who Can Say’ & the wondrous exit of ‘I See You’. Seeing them live for the first time has made me fall in love with them all over again & Faris Badwan can do no wrong with his authentic lead vocals. When is the next tour!?

Alt-J

So to the headline act of the evening… Alt-J (∆) are the 2012 Mercury Prize winners for their debut album, ‘An Awesome Wave’ that was released in May that year. With the promise of inevitable integration with their sophomore album, ‘This Is All Yours’, tonight’s performance would be beyond a treat.

They began in icy bright white flashing light, illuminating the crowd with their choir-like ‘Intro’ from ‘This Is All Yours’. It evolved into ‘Every Other Freckle’ from the same album accompanied by glittering cubes on set. “Like a cat beds into a beanbag”, Joe Newman’s lead vocals instigated the greeted journey to warmer climes.

Alt-J

Gus Unger-Hamilton cries out, “This is the last day of the tour; this is ‘Something Good’. This is a song that charms you to a place of idyllic luxury. It sends you away to a better place of wellbeing, away from the daily grind, calming you along the way. It sure is something good, epitomised by Thom Green’s short drum solo, to an azure blue ocean of light on stage.

Alt-J

Accompanied by a soft toy lion that could be seen from the wings, Thom showed his appreciation to the crowd throughout.  He threw several drumsticks into the audience; a great souvenir to an outrageously good night. In my eyes, he was the star performer.

The same could not be said fully, though, for the lead man, Joe. ‘Left Hand Free’ & ‘Matilda’ could be anticipated to be the highlights of an Alt-J performance. I felt he was lacking here vocally. Poor diction was unfortunately a common theme & he encouraged the crowd to take over for ’Matilda’. “Help me sing this one!” You can forgive him for what must have been a tiresome tour between September & December. They kicked off in Glasgow, travelling through Europe & North America, & then finally reaching us in Nottingham for the finale.

Alt-J

‘Bloodflood’ & ‘Bloodfood pt. II’ encompassed hot reds mixed with spicy notes like a “flood of blood to the heart”. Combined, these two numbers reached over 9 minutes of sumptuous brilliance. All band members were dressed in black, allowing for no distractions & inspiring the warm imagery for which their songs naturally create. ‘Nara’ supported this ideal with the lyric, “Love is the warmest colour”.

Alt-J

Audibly & lyrically, these guys provoke wonder & promote desire. ‘Tessellate’ boasts “Triangles are my favourite shape, three points where two lines meet.” Even the best mathematician can question the logic when transfixed by the mesmeric beat! ‘Dissolve Me’ was sublime & I feel this was Joe’s best performance adding a touch of vanilla to the heat created earlier. The lights dissolved their silhouettes as the crowd united in howls before, “She makes the sound the sea makes, knee-deep in the North Sea.”

Alt-J

Vibrant green lighting blanketed the stage for ‘The Gospel of John Hurt’ complimented by the drum machine’s ‘Woos’ & ‘Woahs’. There was a sense of release like a burst of new life, thus, grasped by the crowd. “Coming out of the woodwork”, Alt-J affirmatively graced the arena with their signature blend of folk, soul & electronic dub.

We were gifted with ‘Lovely Day’, originally by Bill Withers but with an Alt-J twist like someone had slipped something funky into a cup of Tetley tea! ‘Fitzpleasure’ bounded into our ears “tra-la-la-ing” & amalgamating shrieking tones with grinding rhythm. Gus saluting us: “Thank you Nottingham!” before the band’s exit & instantaneous cheers & hollers. “We want more, we want more!”

Alt-J

We got more! This year’s radio smash, ‘Hunger of the Pine’ initiated the encore to a backdrop of beating royal blue angular shapes.  ‘Warm Foothills’ chased behind & again diction was an underlying flaw. Nevertheless, Joe’s ability to reach the high notes some female vocalists can struggle with was impressive.

‘Taro’ confidently inflicted the spice & the peppery heat that had been so common throughout this evening’s performance. It was the chance for the crowd to express their pleasure through dance. To what was quite a motionless atmosphere all evening, the stillness became sexy, serpent-like swaying & arm waving to the rich sounds of South-West Asia.

Alt-JAlt-J

“Thank you so much. See you soon!” was the message from Gus, as the curtain closed on ‘Breezeblocks’. Sections of the crowd started jumping to “Please don’t go, I love you so” as red crosses, maybe kisses, surrounded the quartet.

It was an appropriate finish to a magical tour, of which the supporting crew were congratulated & thanked on numerous occasions. I am drooling in anticipation as to what is next for the effervescent sounds of Alt-J. Their creative prowess will certainly be worth waiting for.

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