A rainy Sunday night turned into a trip to Laval to check out the popular British band, alt-J. The evening felt like a road trip, as we opened up google maps to figure out how to get to the faraway land that is Laval. The show took place at Place Bell, a relatively new venue in the Montreal music scene. Overall the venue feels and looks like a brand new “miniature” version of the Bell Centre. Unfortunately, I’ve always thought that the larger the venue the less poignant the experience. For what it’s worth, Place Bell serves as a somewhat improved version of the Bell Centre and a pretty good option for bands with larger audiences, however its location is a huge drawback, and I doubt I’ll be soon.
Opening for alt-J was their British comrade, Bishop Briggs. The indie-pop musician came out dressed in a black t-shirt and pants and got the crowd to dance and jump around with popular songs like “River”, leaving the audience ready for their alt-J.
On to the main act. Musically speaking, alt-J delivered nothing less and nothing more than I expected: A fast paced show filled with great songs and good energy, with some basic crowd interaction. The show in itself felt very efficient, as they churned out 19 songs as it was no big deal, leaving none of their famous songs behind. However, the show stopper of the night was their amazing light show and the animations designed for the large screen that served as their backdrop. This performance is a perfect example of a band using lighting to their advantage to accentuate their music. The stage was simple without any useless props or decoration, but between each of the three musicians there were clear thin polls hanging from the ceiling, that started illuminating and changing color and movement with the rhythm or style of the song. The lighting effects, graphics and props served as a visually stimulating show that accompanied the music perfectly.
alt-J isn’t really known for their showmanship, so, having seen them before at Osheaga, I had a good idea of what to expect. However, I was wrong in one thing. I was expecting the focus of their set to be on their newest album, “Relaxer”, but the show ended up being a mix of all their most popular songs from all three albums, which was much welcome. Songs like “Matilda”, “Fitzpleasure”, “Tesselate”, “In Cold Blood”, and “Deadcrush” (a personal favorite) received loud singing and seemingly unending cheers.
During “Matilda”, Joe Newman (vocals, guitar) motivated the crowd to sing one of the songs key verses (“This is from, this is from, this is from Matilda”), and the crowd happily obliged, shouting the verse as loudly as they could. After “Fitzpleasure”, the band left the stage, and returned to perform their encore which ended with their most popular song to date: “Breezeblocks”. An appropriate way to end the set.
If you love alt-J you’ll love seeing them live, as odds are you’ll probably get to listen to most of your favorite songs throughout. Overall alt-J delivers a pretty jam packed set filled with a great light show and amazing songs, but at times it seems too structured, leaving little room for spontaneity.