Alt-J’s rise to prominence has been rather dramatic over the last year. Their last Dublin gig was in the Academy 2 last May, and in those twelve months the band have released a stunning album that has been widely regarded as the standout record from last year, as well as winning the prestigious Mercury prize.
There were two support bands, the first of which was Hundred Waters. Their hazy, dreamy synth pop was rather impressive and was certainly a pleasant way to open the night. Princess Chelsea was next and were very engaging, with frontwoman Chelsea Nikkel oozing charisma. Her marvellous voice lit up the venue, and their instrumentation was brilliant, switching between church organ and xylophones to distorted guitar solos.
Alt-J took to the stage and opened appropriately with Intro, a song with a gentle piano opening before bursting to life with an irregular drum beat and intricate little guitar parts. The band moved straight onto Ripe and Ruin, a vocal only song with some lovely harmonies. Tessellate was next and sounded great, with Newman’s vocals and the drums standing out. The band took a breather to say hello after playing the first three songs from the album in order, before launching into Something Good. They might not say a whole lot, but they look quietly assured on stage.
The synth sounds marvellous on Dissolve Me, and the powerful outro reverberates powerfully round the venue. However, the band begin to lose their touch at times during their set. Bloodflood is a little underwhelming, and Ms is similarly a little bland. These songs sound great over the course of the album, but taken out of that context and thrust into a venue the size of the Olympia, which is humming with the presence of a large crowd, they are decidedly weak and uninspiring. Breezeblocks marks a return to form and the stunning outro is probably the best moment of the night.
The band return for their encore, and play a couple more slower songs. As before they lack the power and intensity of the band’s better songs, and are probably better heard through headphones rather than in a jam-packed concert venue. Taro is the closer, and the outstanding synth line and glorious, uplifting vocals ensure a wonderful finale to the gig.
At their best, Alt-J’s songs pulse with a deep energy. Driven forward by the exceptional drumming of Thom Green, songs like Taro, Breezeblocks and Something Good sound wonderful, but there were parts of their set that were boring and uninspiring. Basically, the band are a few songs away from a top-quality set. Another album of equal calibre to ‘An Awesome Wave’ should rectify this minor problem, in what was otherwise a solid performance.
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Photos: Luis Faustino