Most artists today spend a lot of time focusing on their stage presence. Their banter between songs, their use of audience interaction, choreographed poses and movements during each show designed to thrill the audience. But what has become a bit of a lost art, is the ability for a band to let the music speak for itself.
Enter Alt-J, the English three piece, that is the antithesis of all the aforementioned elements. During their 1 hour, 20 minute set on Friday night the members of Alt-J did little to make you notice their presence. The three band members were line up in the middle of the stage, each separated by lighting bars creating an almost three walled cage for each member. Now that’s not to say the whole show was void of interaction there were some ‘thank yous” and some command calls for the audience to raise their hands, but for the most part it was all about the music.
It isn’t something that would work in every genre, who wants to watch a two minute guitar solo by someone staring at their feet? But for the genre of music Alt-J plays, it’s perfect. The intricate electronic beats and dance-like vibes of the music are almost like something you’d see at an EDM show, however with Alt-J the sound is created live with instruments instead of pre-recorded. Alt-J are currently on the road supporting their latest album, 2017’s “RELAXER” which was released last month. Still though the most songs on the setlist (10 of 19 to be exact) came from the group’s monster debut record “An Awesome Wave” which spawned 7 singles.
Experiencing an Alt-J show is quite the sensory experience, though the band members themselves don’t make their presence known much, the light show that goes with the music is amongst the best I’ve ever seen. It gives fans more of a chance to focus on themselves and their personal experience. For example, you know that whole ‘sea of raised cellphones’ problem that the older generations complain about? It’s less prevalent when the scene onstage is similar for most of the show, fans take a couple pics, a video for their Instagram and go back to dancing. There was a lot of dancing in the seats and aisles Friday night as concert goers let loose to the sounds of Alt-J’s music. It’s really an interesting way of creating a memorable experience for fans, attention spans are a lot shorter these days, but with the music and visuals Alt-J presents it’s hard to not find yourself immersed in the moment.
Opening the show was another, pretty stationary act, singer/songwriter Christopher Michael Taylor, who goes by the stage name SOHN. Taylor is a bit like the modern era version of Howard Jones (the English pop singer, not the vocalist of Killswitch Engage). He sits at a keyboard with effects pedals in the middle of the stage and performs his songs without much movement. But like Alt-J there’s a purpose for it, it’s to let the music speak for itself and let fans have a chance to focus on their personal experiences between them and their friends, rather than having their eyes glued to the stage watching for jumps and rock star poses.
Friday night’s show was a good idea of what the modern concert has become, while concerts traditionally have been a mix of music and stage presence, it’s something that has changed with this generation. Younger music fans going to shows now tend to be more wrapped up in their own experience and sharing that experience with their friends rather than watching what’s happening on stage. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t listening, the dancing, the excitement for the band’s most popular songs and singing along to said songs is still in place exactly where it belongs. But the changing focus on what attending a concert has become is something that Alt-J is very tuned into.
Photos: Alt-J, SOHN - Blue Hills Bank Pavilion - 07.28.17: