Words by Steve Melone | Photo by Jeremy Gordon
Madison Square Garden is synonymous with insane talent and artistic treasures. Icons like Led Zeppelin, George Harrison, John Lennon, The Rolling Stones and many others have had their moments at MSG over the years. It wasn’t long ago when Alt-J was playing small venues and festival shows with a much more intimate crowd, but Monday night the Englishmen were welcomed loudly by a massive, sold out NYC audience.
After the opener, Phantogram, cleared the stage, fans waited impatiently. The lights went off; “Hunger of the Pines” began. Each beat in time with a blue light flashing at the audience. Band members, Joe Newman, Gus Unger-Hamilton and Thom Green took the stage. Cameron Knight joined on stage as well, playing guitar, bass and even taking over the sampling duties in place of former member, Gwil Sainsbury, who left the band last year.
Alt-J is a band with a lot of moving parts, especially for four people to pull off. With such great production quality in the studio, it was interesting to see the group perform live in such a huge venue where nothing is hidden or disguised. At times the singing was a little off-pitch, and the guitar was imperfect, but that was 1% of the live performance. The other 99% was pretty spot on. Thom Green’s drumming was perhaps the most impressive part of the entire show, technically speaking. The music is fast at times, often changing, but the drums were right there every time. Throughout the show, Green’s electric drum set loaded different digital kits between songs. He kept time and had a nearly flawless performance throughout.
One of the great moments was the group performing “Something Good.” Joe Newman began to sing the chorus, “Get high…” Just then fans started lighting up on the floor to celebrate the occasion. But, the greatest moment of the night had to be “Dissolve Me.” An almost spiritual air took over at MSG, though more sexual than one may realize. It’s no secret that the band is rather suggestive in many of their lyrics, but with an average age of 20-25 in the audience, it’s safe to say it wasn’t a problem. Lyrics poured out, “She makes the sound, the sound the sea makes to calm me down.” The crowd quietly watched in certain moments and sang along loudly as the intensity picked up. Songs like, “Left Hand Free,” “Tessellate,” and “Fitzpleasure,” had fans singing along and out of their seats.
After playing “The Gospel of John Hurt,” the four members left the stage. Less than a minute later, they returned to play a four song encore including; “Lovely Day,” “Nara,” and “Leaving Nara.” Just before ending the night, keyboardist & vocalist, Gus Unger-Hamilton told the crowd, “I wish it wasn’t over.” Moments later the show’s finale, “Breezeblocks,” brought the fans to their feet, and the show to a close. Though the performance lasted less than 80 minutes, it was a fantastic experience that showed fans the serious talent the group has.
Alt-J tweeted, “Madison Square Garden you were unforgettable.” For fans the feeling is mutual and they can rest assured that more shows like this will be well within reach.
Hunger of the Pine
Left Hand Free
Interlude (Ripe & Ruin)
Every Other Freckle
The Gospel of John Jurt
Lovely Day (Bill Withers Cover)
TheWaster.com | NYC