alt-J at HBF Stadium

– by Jasmine Uitermark-Thaung

The crowd flowed into HBF stadium steadily, setting themselves up for the night with beer in hand, comfy shoes and eager ears. Indigo lights lit up the stage as Asgeir’s presence was keenly awaited, his arrival welcomed from the moment he immersed concert goers with his first song, an offering from In the Silence. Asgeir’s smooth Icelandic accented tones accompanied by mellow rhythms and harrowing chords resonated through my bones, joyous smiles ensued as we paid witness to this delicate voice of dreams (or mine at least).

Heart Shaped Box’ sorrow-filled sounds coupled with the crowd’s urgency for the atmosphere to amp up meant ‘King and Cross’, a track that’s had its fair share of airplay and was well known throughout the age-diverse audience ensured shoulders were swaying as catchy synths kept the tempo alive. The raw emotion this bearded entourage brought to the stage was infectious, showcasing the band’s brotherhood and warming the hearts of almost every soul in the packed arena, the band locked arms in an act of unity and took a humble bow signifying the end of their Australian tour.

With animated chatter rising amongst the audience, and awe-stricken fans making an attempt at processing the genuine presence Asgeir had given throughout his performance, blue lights began to pulse timed to the intro pace of ‘Hunger of the Pine’ with alt-J emerging amongst the haze of shouts and applause. As the syncopated rhythm of the lights continued Joe Newman’s lone voice ricocheted around the stadium, as reverberating ominous bass notes pushed forward. Adding to the wall of sound Miley Cyrus’ sample was introduced along with the beginnings of what was to be a killer performance for Thom Green, alt-J’s drummer.

Playing an energetic set throughout the night comprising of old and new, alt-J’s obscure lyrical nature, somewhat sexual at times accompanied by the progressive licks exhibited in their surging ebb and flow provided an almost faultless, hypnotic performance.

Following alt-J’s every utterance, the crowd on Friday night basked in the pure bliss that was presented to their ears. Racking up a cult-like following it was clear the group had faith in the swaying bodies surrounding the stadium as Newman directed everyone to join him in the intro of ‘Matilda’ as he sang out “This is for, this is for…” with the single utterance “Matilda” reflecting throughout the compound.

‘Bloodflood’ a track off alt-J’s An Awesome Wave album was the standout to me amongst the sea of good vibes and erratic visions. ‘Bloodflood’ follows the distinct but somewhat repetitive sequence we’ve become accustomed to from the UK group, however the immaculate luminous visuals appearing behind the band combined with the timing of the lights made for a flawless fragment of the seamlessly sound set. Perhaps it was the nostalgic feel the electronic pings of the intro gave off teamed with the trance-like melody.

Feeling the stands shake as bodies rocked and toe tappers kept the beat, alt-J departed the stage to shouts for an encore as the thumps of stamping feet echoed the crowd’s intense craving for alt-J’s alt-rock. “Play Breezeblocks!” I heard someone in the mosh yell and the UK amblers of indie musings delivered. The monotonous vocal huffs of alt-J front man singing “Please don’t go,” exhibited irony on the last night of their Australian tour as we farewelled the talented musicians and pillow talkers to mallet percussion, the dips of a very competent synth player and oblique vocal harmonies that kept me singing all the way through the post-concert traffic jam.


Photography by Henry Whitehead

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