It is incredible what indie-rockers alt-J have been able to accomplish in just a few short years. They’ve released two LPs that have been both critically and commercially successful and have managed to become one of the groups at the forefront of modern rock. On March 30th I finally got a chance to see whether or not their music was the result of genuine talent or studio trickery, and they did not disappoint. While I arrived at Madison Square Garden to hear larger-than-life guitar anthems, I got much more than I had bargained for.
Yes, there were sing-alongs and the occasional guitar solo, but alt-J’s strong suit is undoubtedly their unique and poignant vocal harmonies. I’ve seen a wide variety of concerts at the Garden, everything from Paul Simon to Jay Z, and this was perhaps the quietest crowd I’ve witnessed. Audience members were not uninterested, but rather completely awe-struck by the harmonies on display throughout the majority of tracks. Frontman Joe Newman and keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton are able to combine their voices to provide angelic harmonies not often heard in a rock group, particularly in 2015.
While the music was absolutely at the forefront of the concert, the light show was mesmerizing as well and only aided in getting immersed in the music. Never did the visual decorations diminish or distract from the songs, but instead did an excellent job at complementing them. An unquestionable highlight came on “Something Good” which had the sold-out crowd of 18,000 singing along to alt-J’s unique blend of indie and experimental rock. Newman impressed throughout the show and never allowed the crowd to get restless.
I’ll admit it, I am not a die-hard fan nor did I know every song, but never did I think about my obligations the following day or my own hectic schedule, which for me is the sign of a great concert. Alt-J gave the adoring crowd a short but sweet set that appeared to please even the toughest New York City critics in attendance. The concert was not a transcendent experience or the greatest show I have seen, but alt-J still managed to turn me from a casual fan to one that will continue to follow their career for years to come. Just when you thought modern rock had drained its creative juices alt-J has managed to revitalize the genre by adding their own distinctive twist. If you enjoyed their records than I highly recommend checking out their live show if for no other reason than to hear their stunning harmonies performed in real time. If you’re on the fence like I was you may not be blown away, but you surely will not be disappointed.
Photos by Jeff Geller