Monday, September 30, 2013
Concert review: Alt-J loosened up a sold-out crowd at Dallas’ House of Blues
The group let the beat-heavy music do the work.
DALLAS British rock quartet Alt-J has charmed its way onto indie playlists with a textured, angular style. The humble musicians enchanted a sold-out crowd at the House of Blues on Sunday night with a sweeping display of sweetened harmonies and pulsating, start-stop melodies.
As an outsider looking in, nothing about Alt-J screams mainstream success. The band's “look” conveys a street-worthy nerdiness, while the music incorporates tribal chants, softened percussion that still manages to dominate, and an unpredictable pace. And yet there’s an untouchable coolness about these English rockers. Maybe it’s the racing click-clack of the drums or the tone of singer Joe Newman’s warbly voice. Together, they make a sound unlike anything else on the airwaves today.
The guys started off strong with the crowd-pleasing track “Fitzpleasure,” complete with foreboding strings and stout, hey-ho chants. Alt-J has found a way to make busy music remain relaxed, like a raging thunderstorm on a summer night. With only one full-length album, An Awesome Wave, the setlist included almost the entire record. “Something Good” was, well, good: The frenzied, spiraling keys contradicted the airborne chorus, taking our ears from a rapid plummet to a floating position with one transition.
Quirky keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton and Newman interjected a few jokes, giving personality to the tunes. The stop in Dallas was the final show on the U.S. portion of the tour, and it's back to Europe for the next round.
The guys held up their signature symbol, a triangle made with both hands, throughout the night, encouraging fans to do the same. The sexy number “Tessellate” describes the band's fascination with the shape, jumping from a bottom-of-the-barrel alto to a tip-toeing falsetto with giant leaps.
Stepping back from their dramatic tone with “Hand-Made,” Newman and Unger-Hamilton carried the number with air-tight harmonies and pacing keys. But the size of the venue swallowed the intimate moment, making the band seem further away rather than upfront and unplugged. The resounding volume returned with thundering track “Breezeblocks” in the two-song encore, sending us away with a chill state of mind.
Los Angeles-based band Lord Huron played a breezy 45-minute set with its own brand of indie rock. Built with laid-back strings and a bass guitar, the band's rustic style has hints of tropical flair — think if Jimmy Buffett paired with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Building track “The Man Who Lives Forever” swelled into a flavorful blend of cushy percussion and sunny guitar melodies, perking the audience’s ears. This was the band's first time in Dallas, and with the way they’re performing, we’re hoping for a small headlining tour next.