Alt-J’s Relaxer Tour – Rain or Shine
With a catalog of music that would make a perfect soundtrack for the most sly villain, Alt-J’s music is chilling yet inviting. The band’s unique sound is shaped by deep and complex instrumentals and lead singer, Joe Newman’s sweet and soulful indie rock voice. On Monday night, the trio consisting of Newman (guitar/ lead vocals), Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboard), and Thom Sonny Green (drums) played a show at the Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre as a part of their North American Relaxer Tour in support of their most recent album RELAXER.
The show in Charlotte was a part of an extension of Alt-J’s original North American tour. Adding a second leg in May, the addition kicked off in St. Louis, Missouri on June 6, and is scheduled to end on June 26 in Mexico City, Mexico.
Formed back in 2007 in Leeds, the band originally came up with the name “Alt-J” after the Greek delta symbol. Typing alt + J into a Mac computer, ultimately leads to the “∆”. Originally meeting each other at university and sharing Garageband files frequently throughout their college career, after graduating, the band had plenty of material to pull from. Creating their first album in 2012 An Awesome Wave, and releasing “Tessellate” as the first single and “Matilda” as second. Gaining popularity with millions of fans beginning to listen to Atl-J’s music, it wasn’t until the release of “Breezeblocks” that they realized they had hit it big. With over 250 million streams and counting, “Breezeblocks” has continued to persistently be an indie anthem. Ask any hipster if they’ve heard the song and you’ll be 99% sure to get a “yes” back.
Opening up for Alt-J was electronic avant-pop artist, Matthew Dear. Born in Texas and raised in Michigan, Dear developed a passionate love for electronic music from a young age. Drawing influence from bands/artists such as Talking Heads and David Bowie, Dear released his first album in 2003, Leave Luke to Heaven.
With a minimalist style and an experimental sound, Dear captivate many audience members with his unique sound. Performing solo, he mixed his own songs before the crowd using many complex programs to emit his techno craft.
Alt-J hit the stage around 9:15pm. Opening with “Deadcrush”, the bass started beating as Newman began to sing in admiration of deceased photographer, Elizabeth Miller. With such beauty out of his reach, one could feel the longing in Newman’s voice. The idea of having a dead crush became oddly normal throughout the crowd within the song’s three minute duration.
Alt-J’s stage setup was composed of various barred lights that put on quite the show during the band’s performance. Each member had their own section of the stage and an individual platform separated by the lights. Changing from greens, to blues, to reds, to purples, the lights created a trickling sparkle effect and lit up the stage beautifully.
After singing “Deadcrush”, the band dove right into “Fitzpleasure”. Many pleased fans sang along to the sinister innuendo narrated by Newman. Harmonious tra-la-la’s filled the amphitheatre during the warm spring night.
Rain and thunder off in the distance created concern as to whether or not the show would go on early in the evening. Light rain came down for nearly the first half of Alt-J’s set before clearing up.
Fans sported ponchos and rain jackets creating a sea of color throughout the venue.
Luckily, the rain did not affect the show as Alt-J had prepared for the worse making sure that their gear would be protected.
A popular favorite of the night was “In Cold Blood”, a song off RELAXER discussing a pool party gone wrong. With over 24 million streams on Spotify since its release last June, “In Cold Blood” remains one of the most popular songs off the new album. It was truly amazing hearing the sound that the band was able to make with just a keyboard, guitar, and drums. If I had been blindfolded, I would have guessed there was a large band of five or six people onstage each manning multiple instruments.
Slowing it down before playing “Matilda” Newman said
“Okay Charlotte, you might know this song. If you do, sing it with me.”
This was one of the very few sentences Newman spoke throughout the night. Not wanting to take the spotlight and more focused on playing music rather than discussing it, Newman bestowed his humility.
Before leaving for the encore, Alt-J played “Left Hand Free” for the audience. The song that was once claimed as the “least Alt-J song ever” and yet their second most popular song. Coming up with the idea for the number unprompted, the band members were forever thankful for it’s spontaneity. Stepping outside their comfort zone to create the song ultimately led them to the road of success.
The band finished with “Breezeblocks”. Newman pointed toward the crowd urging them to sing “please don’t go, please don’t go, I love you so, I love you so”. Green shredded on the drums playing the iconic “Breezeblocks” beat as fans danced and swayed along for Alt-J’s last song.
Alt-J’s sound is formulated by musical geniuses. Well educated in their art, the band writes heavy complex lyrics that invites listeners to analyze their melodious text and at the same time, encourages them to embrace the sensation of live music. Each album, EP, and single released has consistently been uniquely Alt-J. This band is the real deal. No sugar coating, only raw emotion and honest lyrics exist within Alt-J’s archive.