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Live Review: alt-J @ Margaret Court Arena

4 May 2023 | 3:48 pm | Michael Prebeg

"Yesterday they sung it loud, but I think you can sing it louder."

Photo By Ryley Clarke

Photo By Ryley Clarke

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Sydney-based indie-pop duo Royel Otis perform with a full band tonight. They invoke a summertime vibe with a surf rock, synth-infused, lo-fi charm as they conjure up a familiarity of the bands you grew up listening to in the golden age of indie-pop.

Playing songs from their latest EP, Sofa Kings, they get the crowd grooving along to their upbeat, jangly chords with feel-good choruses. Their sweet melancholic tunes fill us with a sense of nostalgia as they unleash their smooth guitar lines and catchy harmonies to leave us wanting more.

Photo by Ryley Clarke

After being postponed for six months, British indie band alt-J finally bring The Dream Tour to Melbourne for anticipating fans. Flickering lights signal their arrival on stage as each of the three band members take their place behind their instruments for the opening song Bane to set a dark and enigmatic mood.

They proceed to take us on a journey across all four of their albums to cater for all fan favourites and a few new tracks. Their chemistry is undeniable, and despite little interaction and not moving from their positions for the whole show, they are able to connect with the audience with the sheer power and emotion of their music. We become immersed in their precise instrumentation and polished performance. 

Their signature quirky tongue-twisting lyrics and back-and-forth other-worldly vocal harmonies between lead singer/guitarist Joe Newman and keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton showcase their flawless synchronicity to hypnotise us.

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Photo by Ryley Clarke

Songs from the band’s fourth album, The Dream, are some of their most intimate yet familiar to get stuck in our heads. They experiment with different genres, samples, storytelling, and a range of instruments to explore new territory, and some of these new songs, including Chicago, are standouts in this live setting. The song builds slowly, and the heavy strobe lighting kicks in to punctuate the thumping drum beat that grows with intensity and conjures a fierce striking energy.

The euphoric live performance is packed with pulsing rhythm, rumbling bass and flourishing vocals to create a magical atmosphere. Tessellate serves as the band’s long-time anthem and a crowd favourite to symbolise the connection between the three sides of a triangle representing each of the band members and as their name suggests, can be created on a keyboard by typing alt and j.

“Yesterday they sung it loud, but I think you can sing it louder,” calls Newman as he conducts the audience to sing the chorus of the heartfelt track Matilda to bring everyone together, swaying in harmony. Last night they had a show where they played their first album in full. Tonight, they decide to play three songs from their debut album (An Awesome Wave) in a row before the encore, including Taro, Dissolve Me and Fitzpleasure.

alt-J dedicates their encore to the late Michael Gudinski. “No party will be the same without him, and no trip to Australia will be either,” says Unger-Hamilton. Left Hand Free, Hard Drive Gold and Breezeblocks brings the electrifying show to a close in his memory.

Photo by Ryley Clarke