Alt-J at the 3Arena, Dublin – Review and Photos
Alt-J at the 3Arena – 27th September
Sitting in the tightly-packed, newly named 3Arena, I looked into the audience, a sea of waving arms. Earlier in the week, they played “their biggest gig to date”, according to the boys themselves; however, it was clear that the numbers in Dublin far surpassed that crowd on Wednesday. The excitement was practically palpable and the dedicated fans were ever-present (several Kilkenny and Tipperary jerseys were spotted outside the premises, avoiding each other). “This better be worth taking the weekend off work” said a man who was crushed onto the luas with myself. Likely to be their only gig this year, it was clear that fans had travelled the distance to hear the Leeds lads perform tracks from their stellar debut album and their newly released “This is All Yours”. However, as excited as their fans were, the boys were rather subdued in their manner. Joe Newman had the cold and reserved manner of a statue, “We’re excited to be here tonight”, which never translated into their body language or their interaction with the crowd. Perhaps they’re more focused on delivering a sound that is true to their critically-received sound. Their set reflected their almost statuesque manner, perfectly- refined, pared-back, if you walked in late you’d be unsure as to whether the stage had been setup for them yet. With little more than a few flickering beaming lights and the odd visual attraction, the boys clearly wanted the focus to be on the sound.
They opened immediately with the eerie, “Hunger of the Pine”, and instantaneously demonstrated why the 3Areana was sold-out for the night, their performances are audio gold. The combination Newman and co-singer Gus Unger-Hamilton’s haunting vocals ensured that fans were in for a night of delight. Their set started incredibly strong, having played fan favourites like “Left Hand Free”, “Fitzpleasure” and “Blood flow” in the first half an hour, their sound just works so well on a live platform, it sounds like a fastidiously worked blanket of similar, smaller songs, that combine in order to create this unique blend of folk-rock. This patchwork acts to reveal their threading of genre lines, varying between moody-indie sounds to a sort of folktronica sound. The latter half of their set seemed to lag a little, it didn’t have the right mingling of favourites and lesser known tracks, it was still a pleasure to listen to but it was missing that certain “oomph” that gives a sense of continuity to a performance. The decision to finish with “Breezeblocks” was genius, naturally it was the one everyone lost their minds to, the sing-along was in full force as everyone rose to their feet. A brilliant closing to a beautiful set.
For a first time listener, their music appears potentially dangerous, is this the sort of sound one can chant along with? Yes, yes it is. Thick, Irish accents overwhelmed the boys during their rendition of “Taro” from their first album. The addition of a touring guitarist seems to have only fortified their sound to no end, now if they could just get some fortification in terms of personality they’d be a wonder.
Review by Elaine McDonald
Photos by Colm Moore