Alt-J at Shepherd’s Bush Empire – Review
With three Brit Award 2013 Nominations, Alt-J are suddenly in the limelight. But they already have a devoted following and tickets for their two performances at the 2000-seater Shepherd’s Bush Empire were like gold dust.
Saturday night’s mosh pit was full of good humoured puns and anticipation, ‘Triangles are our favourite shape!’ shouted one fan, echoing the lyrics. It proved to be a rallying cry. All around him others raised their arms in the air, made the hand-triangle shape and shouted ’Let’s Tessellate!’
And tessellate they did. As the indie-pop foursome took to the stage and answered the call with triangles of their own making, the mosh pit dissolved with joy and were rewarded with Intro, a mellow number which evolves from sole piano into a complex blend of bass chords and rhythms.
Their sound is a product of Jo Newman’s croaky lead vocals, Gwil Sainsbury’s weighty bass and Gus Unger-Hamilton’s harmonies and keyboard. Thom Green’s inventive and deliberately off-beat drumming lends a White Stripes feel and a distinctive edge. He delivers tracks like Breezeblocks with a look of mesmeric happiness – shared by the crowd.
Whilst the line-up hasn’t changed, other things have. For their first big London gig they had a new light-show where the familiar triangle had been replaced by a myriad of bubbles and river delta patterns, richer symbols of the Delta key (Alt-J ∆).
Also new to many was a track called Buffalo, recorded as part of the soundtrack to film Silver Linings Playbook, a well-received American romantic comedy about mental illness.
In another change, Gus Unger-Hamilton, in the past strictly musical, now introduces the songs and does the banter while lead singer Jo Newman focusses on an intense performance which culminates in songs like Fitzpleasure and Tessellate, characteristic choral melodies backed by heavier sounds and sentiments.
Jo is the first to admit that the band are incredibly fussy about their music, with the result that every track from their Mercury Prize-winning album An Awesome Wave is a good one. But there are some favourites - Matilda brought the crowd to fever-pitch as they revelled in Newman’s well-timed invitation to join in almost from the start.
The set closed with the stark lyrics, gentle melody and addictive rhythm of Breezeblocks whilst Taro provided the perfect encore, soothing a crowd still eager for more. But they will have to wait until May when Alt-J comes to the Brixton Academy. Until then the Fitzpleasure is all abroad.