Concert Review: Alt-J at Myth Live in Maplewood, MN – October 31,2014

Photos courtesy Joe Stadele Photography for TWTHS, published 11/2/2014

Alt-J ©JSP2014 (14)As Halloween performances go, fan anticipation is always high. Costumed fans came out to the Myth Live in droves, from Mario & Luigi, to Sexy Fill-in-the-Blank, to the cast of Game of Thrones, there was an excitement in the air for return of Alt-J.  While both Alt-J and, opener, Lovelife got into the Halloween spirit, only one seemed to fall short of the charisma their KISS makeup might suggest.

Fans lined the balconies and barriers of the Myth Live, bobbing and hand waving from the beginning-to-end of Alt-J’s mesmerizing set.  From the hypnotic draw of “Fitzpleasure” and “Dissolve Me” to the mass appeal of “Left Hand Free” and “Every Other Freckle,” Alt-J was nearly flawless in replicating the intricate vocals, samples and sound of their albums; “This Is All Yours” and “An Awesome Wave.” Hiding in the shadows of the stage, the men were quick to please with the Miley Cyrus-sampled “Hunger of the Pine” and after the first three songs, the band lit up the club with an impressive, multi-panel light show.  The band connected songs, pairing “Nara” and “Leaving Nara,” as well as “Bloodflood 1 &2.  There were moment of pure elegance, such as in “Warm Foothills” which slowly blossomed with its percussion.  But with little movement on stage or behind their instruments, “The Gospel of John Hurt” was a welcome change of pace as singer/guitarist Joe Newman introduced a distorted crunch into his guitar playing; letting loose for perhaps the only moment of the evening.

Alt-J ©JSP2014 (21)“It’s our first Halloween in America and we are loving it,” claimed multi-instrumentalist Gus Unger-Hamilton.

Unfortunately, Alt-J’s attempt at KISS costumes was about as half-hearted as their attempt to connect with the audience. Newman could have benefited from loosening up more than just the top buttons of his collared shirt.  Gus spoke to the audience periodically, but the impressive light show began to feel as a mask to cover to hide the men who stood robotically stiff for nearly the duration of the set.  While it’s quite obvious Alt-J are evolving as musicians, striking a balance as both musicians and performers can only improve their live show.

Opening the night, Lovelife were quick to impress with an upbeat and playful set.   The band took the stage to the “Ghostbusters’ Theme,” patriotically waving as they dawned presidential (and hopeful) masks; Obama on lead vocals, Clinton on guitar, Palin on bass, Reagan on drums and Nixon on keys.  After a few waves and a Palin-twerk, the band easily broke the ice with audience.   The band’s 80’s synth-pop/rock sound was accessible and frontman Lee Harwell was both charismatic and worked to get the crowd involved.  With a fast yet powerful performance, Lovelife packed a punch in a small amount of time and are sure to return to Minneapolis with a larger fanbase.

Lovelife ©JSP2014 (6)Alt J Setlist

Hunger of the Pine
Something Good
Left Hand Free
Dissolve Me
Bloodflood 2

Every Other Freckle
Warm Foothills
The Gospel of John Hurt
Lovely Day

Leaving Nara


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