Live Review: Alt-J - Bridgewater Hall, Manchester 28/10/2018

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Since the release of last year’s ‘RELAXER’, alt-J have been keeping their UK fans on tenterhooks waiting for a tour of major UK cities – naturally, then, anticipation is high in Manchester tonight. The setting is the beautiful Bridgewater Hall, a tiered venue for predominantly orchestral concerts, and the formality of how this gig is being treated may have been a surprise to those who weren’t aware of the venue’s purpose. However, it makes the show feel like an important one – like a full production that fits perfectly with the band’s dramatic, ethereal sound.

Everything goes swimmingly for opener AK Patterson. She spins beautiful folk songs that are sometimes eerie, sometimes uplifting, and always very atmospheric- a perfect fit for alt-J, it could be said. The combination of acoustic guitar and cello is soothing, evoking images of windswept hillsides and green forests – it lulls the audience into a modest sense of excitement for the headliner, which is nonetheless palpable.

Literally the minute the band are due to take to the stage, however, an alarm sounds telling everyone to leave the venue – with the current climate of fear surrounding events drawing lots of people together, people naturally assume the worst, but their worries are quickly assuaged upon realising it’s simply a small fire in the venue that is easily put out. Rather annoyingly however for fans who have paid upwards of £35 to attend this gig, the show is pushed back an hour; alt-J still play a full set, but for those who had to leave to catch buses and trains, that’s not much of a comfort.

Those who do catch the set, however, are treated to a performance that is nothing short of utterly magical. Their light show is tailored perfectly to fit the sound of each individual song, with flashes of colour corresponding even to certain beats- the effort that must have gone into creating such a detailed set is commendable. From Something Good, to Bloodflood, to The Gospel of John Hurt, every song is played with a record-perfect finesse that forces the audience to shut their eyes and just bathe in the aural beauty. It’s one of the most atmospheric, all-encompassing performances Manchester has seen for a while; the audience’s eyes and ears are wrapped in a blanket of sensory pleasure. Those who could stay for the show really are getting their money’s worth.

Fan favourites such as Left Hand Free and In Cold Blood eventually force the crowd of their bliss-induced coma to stand on their feet and dance- alt-J aren’t known for being a band with singalong choruses, but certain songs would prove this wrong. Remixed versions of tracks such as Deadcrush and Adeline from Reduxer are given life very convincingly. Despite the venue being half empty by closing track, the iconic Breezeblocks, alt-J put on a fantastic performance and maintained a beautiful energy and atmosphere for the night, fire alarms be damned.

Words by Ellie Rogerson and Photography by Abbie Jennings