Live Review: Alt-J @ The 02 Academy Leeds


I’m not the longest serving Alt-J fan and I have never claimed to be, but over the last half a year or so their music has slowly occupied more and more of my brain. I struggle to think of many bands that have this sort of slow burning effect on me, creeping into my consciousness and entangling itself so deeply into my musical psyche that I have begun to gaslight myself into believing just how long I have been living with their music. All this led me to being more than just a little bit excited to see them live for the first time at the o2 in Leeds.

The first thing that hits you at an Alt-J show, apart from 99.99999% (at least) white audience, is the mixing. For a band that doesn’t have a dedicated bass player the electronic low notes of the song reverberate through your bones. Though the crowd never really got into it more than some aggressive swaying (if that’s even a thing) the whole set still seemed to wash over me at a consistently endorphin releasing pace. The highlight of the beginning quarter of the set for me would have to be The Actor, a high point on the band’s latest album, this dreamy pop single set the tone for the rest of the set. As the band pivoted into the middle of their set, Tesselate provided a new bench mark in terms of stage production. A menacing animated shark swam behind the band as one of their most iconic songs lit the crowd up. Now would be a good time to praise the light show in general, with the band utilising silhouettes and spot lights to seem otherworldly and ghostly at times.

Another song that sticks out in my mind is Matilda, mainly because the song was aimed entirely at someone in the crowd of the same name. Again, the song went down brilliantly, as did everything from the band’s first two albums, in fact the setlist was curated admirably with the band favouring older, crowd-pleasing cuts over new songs throughout the night. In what felt like no time at all the band went into their ‘last song’ Fitzpleasure, a track that show cased the raw power of the bass in the mix, shaking me to my bones in a way that only Fitzpleasure can.

The band’s encore stands out to me as the true highlight of the show, as any band’s should be, with it consisting of the iconic Left Hand Free, the new boy in town Hard Drive Gold and lastly, of course, Breezeblocks. As a group of songs, the band have got their encore absolutely spot on. Hard Drive gold went down brilliantly, just as much as the bands more classic songs but all three together married to make a perfect end to the show. Unfortunately, it felt to me as if the on stage mixing for the encore fell slightly short, having impressed me so much throughout the show the last three songs failed to shake me up in quite the same way. 

Ultimately, if you are going to an Alt-J gig you already know what you’re gonna be getting. For better and for worse much of the set passed me by, that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy every minute, I did, but looking back through the haze of strobe lighting and fingerpicked riffs the mind struggles to piece together a plethora of highlights. I have meant everything I have said in this piece but for the negatives, much like in a pretentious jazz song, it’s about the things I haven’t said.