Live Report: Alt-J at Trinity Summer Series

Alt-J are slated to start performing at 9 o’clock. At about 20:59, they emerge so unceremoniously onto the stage that they almost catch the eager, devoted crowd by surprise. A slightly belated but undeniably raucous ovation greets them soon after.

This is a group that have little time for the pretensions of being fashionably late. The mercury prize winners have become one of the biggest alternative acts on the planet, but they’re not about to forget the humble origins of the university halls they began playing in.

As if to steady the ship and hush the still talkative throngs of fans in front of them, the set begins with the lovely and loquacious ‘3WW’—the opening track of latest release Relaxer. It’s a smart move, as the slow-build of the subdued, gorgeous riff work is dripping with enough atmosphere to establish the right tone and make one forget that daylight is still very much upon us.

After that it’s the reliable material: A triple bill of An Awesome Wave cuts that send the gracious onlookers into a tizzy. ‘Tessellate’ resonates exceptionally well for what’s basically a love song about trigonometry.

Interactions are at a premium. We get the occasional greeting from keyboard/vocalist Gus Unger-Hamilton. An audible “How’s it going Trinity” is heard just before Relaxer Standout and bond theme in a parallel universe ‘In Cold Blood’. Alt-J are not really a group of individual personalities, however. Not that this is an issue. On stage the three-piece—guitar, drums and keyboard—each form a point of a cohesive shape as the hits are rolled out thick and fast in a brisk but workmanlike set. The groups symbol is, unsurprisingly, is a triangle.

Not everything strikes a chord. The jarring, hyper-masculinity of the sleazy ‘Hit me like a Snare’ stands as a miserable outlier on both their last record and among the evening's set-list. But the tracks whiz by in such efficient fashion that a ‘Dissolve Me’ or a ‘Matilda’ will be right around the corner.

Finishing with their biggest hit to date, the infectious ‘Breezeblocks’, the crowd oblige by reciting every syllable right back at them. It’s in moments like these that we’re reminded that Alt-J’s transition away from the inside venue wasn’t a tricky one. They are in the great outdoors now and aren’t all that bothered about it.

 

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