‘It feels good to be home, Leeds,’ said Alt-J’s frontman Joe Newman with a sigh and a smile as the band mounted the Leeds Arena stage. A particularly significant city for the band, Leeds was where the three members met at university – and their return bore a sense of triumphant homecoming as the 10,000-strong audience cheered and whooped the band into their first song.
As the band launched into “Intro” of All This is Yours (their second album), it felt as through the classically transcendental vibe of Alt-J was seeping through the walls of the arena and steadily filling the room. Light lifting tones of ethereal quality first floated amid the slow-swaying audience before the song sank into a darker, heavier sound that reverberated in the arena and thickened the atmosphere.
Having set the tone for the rest of the concert, “Intro” was followed with the disturbingly fervid love song “Every Other Freckle”. An impassioned love song notorious for its lines of sexualised violence – such as “turn you inside out and lick you like a crisp packet” – it was no surprise that “Every Other Freckle” got the floor heated up and Alt-J fans gyrating to the beat. It was here too that the amazing lights that often accompany Alt-J’s shows began to come to the fore. An array of shapes and colours danced across the screens behind the stage, while lights in the foreground made their way across the arena and through the audience, always in perfect time with the beat.
Intermixing their upbeat songs with the slower, spiritual tracks from their second album, such as “Bloodflood Pt. II” and “Arrival of Nara”, the band had the audience taken on an emotional trip through time and space. We were even awarded a little treat of Newman’s pitch-perfect whistling as the band spiralled into a performance of one of their lesser-known songs, “Warm Foothills”, that had the audience breathing deep and swaying slow, eyes shut.
Having closed off with the bangers “Breezeblocks” and “Fitzpleasure” that had even the seated audience up on their feet dancing, the band attempted to take their leave, only to be cajoled back in by a stomping and raving audience. We got a final taste of Alt-J’s distinctive sound as they performed the hit “Hunger of the Pine”, that featured Miley Cyrus’ sample (“I’m a female rebel”). It worked splendidly contrasted against Newman’s haunting vocals and served to be a grand closure to the show that had the audience belting along and moving to the beat. As Alt-J’s glorious performance drew to an end and the audience’s cheers petered out, the arena doors opened up, quiet chatter broke out, and a sense of awe and appreciation for the greatness that we had just witnessed welled up in the air.
(photo credits: the mit post)