When approaching the spectacular Royal Albert Hall in West London, you're aware that what you are about to see is not ‘just another gig’. The impressive venue built in 1871 has an extraordinary legacy. It's known for hosting the annual BBC Proms, being a second home to Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, and hosting Teenage Cancer Trust shows, recently featured esteemed Indie-rock outfit the Courteeners.
Last night, Alt-J took to the stage at this iconic venue. After forming at Leeds University in 2007, Alt-J are now considered one of the most unique and creative bands in the music industry today. Members Joe Newman, Gus Unger-Hamilton and Thom Sonny Green are experimental with their sound and have not been afraid to bring new elements to their music as their albums have progressed. Whilst their debut album ‘An Awesome Wave’ has a strong electronic sound, the release of their third album ‘Relaxer’ invites traditional rock features in ‘Hit Me Like That Snare’ and folk elements in ‘3WW’ and ‘Pleader’. A new version of ‘Relaxer’ called ‘Reduxer’, featuring a range of artists such as Pusha T and Danny Brown, was released in 2018 paying homage to the Hip-Hop genre. The incorporation of ‘Reduxer’ into the show was flawlessly executed, featuring special guests Hex and Paigey Cakey for a striking rendition of ‘Adeline’.
The evening at the Royal Albert Hall proved to the audience that Alt-J’s individuality is not limited to their music; even their stage presence makes a statement. Each member of the band is situated within their own third of the stage, not moving from each of their places for the entirety of the gig. You may think this this would create a disconnect from the audience, however the exact opposite is true. Alt-J have created a hypnotic experience, achieved through impressive lighting, effective stage presence and an extraordinary sound achieved through a new method employed by the band.
Recently, some Alt-J fans have received an email regarding the new Immersive Sound experience achieved through ‘L-Acoustics’. This technology creates a surreal surround-sound effect. Throughout the show, sound was being projected from all different directions to the audience. At one moment it felt like there were police cars surrounding the audience using a siren, at another the illusion of a water sound was created as through it was behind us. This effect had us completely engrossed in what was happening in the room, forgetting the outside world for the duration of the show.
The set began with ‘Something Good’ from their debut album, and then built into more dynamic tracks such as ‘The Gospel of John Hurt’ and ‘Hunger of the Pine’ from their second album ‘This is All Yours’. A highlight, as always, was the fierce ‘Fitzpleasure’ which closed the show before the encore.
Whilst the crowd could not be as mobile seated down as they would be at other Alt-J gigs, the impact of the band’s craft and talent compensated for this. It can be difficult to achieve a lively atmosphere at venues like the Royal Albert Hall, giving way to a more understated one. Despite this, everyone in the crowd was thoroughly enjoying themselves, and during the encore we were encouraged to stand up and dance for the final songs of the night. After band member Gus stated that playing the world-renowned venue was ‘a dream come true’, it was impossible not to share the passion and excitement Alt-J project.