Live Review: Alt-J + City Calm Down - Metro Theatre (06.02.13)

Winning the coveted Mercury Prize is always sure-fire way to ensure that your tours sell-out very quickly; Last year’s winners, Alt-J are no exception. As such, their late-announced Laneway sideshow was a packed frenzy of trendy folk linked together by their love of Alt J’s left-field indie-rock.

City Calm Down, a band that was featured on our ‘bands to watch for 2013’ list, provided some respectable support with endearing dance-rock. The effect-heavy indie-rock was a breeze of 80’s new-wave and the vocalist sat perfectly in that niche. With their recently-released EP Movements generating a decent buzz for the band, City Calm Down’s live show easily demonstrates why they are destined for success in Australia’s music scene.

Alt-J’s stage set-up was simple, and made for a beautiful scene. A gorgeous backdrop, illuminated and flashing with alternating colours, covered the stage and looked similar to a Japanese-inspired curtain, with tree branches rising up and placing Alt-J against a colourful forest.

Alt-J create spacey folk-rock and pile on layers from various other genres, so it’s even more impressive when the boys manage to make their style translate well live. The quartet opened with the intro from their award-winning An Awesome Wave, a fitting demonstration of their musicianship and a great live translation, sounding almost identical to the recorded version but the subtle, twangy-guitar is much more pronounced live.

The pleasant ‘Ripe and Ruin’ preceded their finest offering, ‘Tessellate.’ Their most quintessential jam remained the highlight of the set; the metallic clangs, drowsy drum pattern, and Joe Newman’s quirky vocals were a pleasant combination – showing reason for all their hype.

‘Fitzpleasure’ proved another fan favourite and the almost hip-hop-like bass-drop, set against an eccentric folk song, had everyone bopping their heads and bouncing their arms as if they were at an El-P concert. Aside from that, the crowd was mainly polite, and very placid throughout Alt-J’s set, only bursting into applause between songs and modestly swaying to the music.

Sadly, not all of Alt-J’s experiments worked, and though their creative mash-up of Kylie Minogue’s ‘Slow’ and Dr Dre’s ‘Still D.R.E’ (amalgamated as ‘Slow Dre’) is interesting, the repetitive keys of the Compton classic just don’t go well with Newman’s strange take on Kylie’s seductive pop hit.

The mega-popular, and deceptively dark, ‘Breezeblocks’ closed out the main set before a two-song encore saw serene tracks ‘Hand-made’ and ‘Taro’ signify Alt-J’s exit. There’s a sense of dread that seeing them again in a venue as intimate as the Metro will become more rare as they continue to grow – and their style is one that will hopefully have the boys continuing their experiments and growing well past album number two.

Set List:

Ripe & Ruin
Something Good
Dissolve Me
Slow Dre (“Slow” VS “Still D.R.E”)