Alt-J @ Capital FM Arena, 08/12/15

Arriving in the standing area of the Capital FM Arena on Tuesday, about half an hour before showtime, it certainly felt like we were in for a special night. This early, there weren’t many already settled but the space was slowly filling up as stagehands finished their work, everyone buzzing with excitement.

At 7:30 sharp, darkness fell as Ghostpoet and his band walked onto the stage. Admittedly, his set was a pleasant surprise. I’d heard a couple of his songs before and he, like Alt-J, didn’t seem to fit into any specific genre, a perfect accompaniment then to the upcoming main event. For sure, he was charismatic and seemed like an all-round decent guy and the set itself was a great opener with highlights being “Off Peak Dreams” and “Liiines”. Vocally, he was sound and was well supported by his band whose guitar and percussion brought an unexpected intensity as well as some elegant backing vocals from the keyboardist.

After about 45 minutes, the evening took more of a psychedelic turn with the Horrors taking their turn on stage.  They definitely got the crowd going with a chaotic set, heavy with big synth melodies and flashing lights, but not quite as enjoyable as Ghostpoet’s. The vocals were occasionally weak, they weren’t as engaged with the crowd and the amount of lights did become irritating after a while. They very much did their job and left, despite some catchy rhythms such as “Mirror’s Image”.

At this point it was now two hours since we’d arrived and just like everyone else, we were ready for what everyone was really here for. Up till now, the atmosphere had been pretty chilled, there were slightly muted cheers and applause after each of the supporting acts’ songs but a few people didn’t seem that interested at all. However, the very second the lights went down at 9:30, the full attention of the audience was on the four guys stepping out into the spotlights. As the familiar sound of the “This is All Yours” ‘Intro’ rang out, there were immediate raucous cheers. What followed was an outstanding 20-song show; no messing around with massive gaps between each song, just one after the other, flowing together perfectly. The atmosphere didn’t let up once, every song received massive cheers and hearty singalongs even the “Ripe and Ruin” interlude from “An Awesome Wave”, so it’s impossible really to pick a highlight. It definitely seemed like tracks with quieter instrumentals like ‘Bloodflood’, ‘Hunger of the Pine’, or ‘Something Good’ also benefitted greatly from a live atmosphere and a gutsier guitar sound because these sounded even better than on their respective studio versions.  Only ‘Warm Foothills’ felt like it missed it the extra voice of Lianne la Havas or the rich twinkling instrumentals of the chorus, maybe just because it’s hard to replicate such an unique sound live.

Regardless, this was a fantastic gig, finished off with people flailing about in a vague attempt at a moshpit to the unmistakeable chorus of Fitzpleasure’, what more could you ask for? After an brief encore of the smouldering ‘Hunger of the Pine’, gorgeous ‘Warm Foothills’ and ‘Taro’; Joe, Gus, Thom and Cameron said goodbye and thank you to Nottingham, playing us out to, of course, ‘Breezeblocks’. One final round of cheers and singing and it was over, leaving us with only Rick Astley’s “Never Going to Give You Up” playing over the speakers, almost as if to mock us that it a great night was well and truly done.



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