REVIEW: Alt-J @ O2 Academy, May 5th

Alt-J in concert - Birmingham

By Matthew Osborne / Pics by Katja Ogrin

Going to see Alt-J seemed like an inconvenience on a Sunday, as I had to tear myself away from the Swingamajig festival – which was infected with Type A Carnival Fever when I left.

Whilst Alt-J undoubtedly know how to party off-stage, I expected the show to be a come-down of sorts; so the onus was on the band to perform the show of their career in order to impress me (and gain valuable positive column inches).Alt-J in concert - Birmingham

Opening act, Princess Chelsea, failed to engross me – so I headed to the bar and tried to wedge myself into a good vantage point, in the claustrophobically packed arena.

Alt-J in concert - BirminghamEventually I managed to find a good spot, away from the usual giant men I stand behind; but instead positioning myself next to the two drunkest blokes in the venue.

When Alt-J came on, it transpired that not only did these two know every word (and apparently were taking bets on which track would be played next) but were incredibly adept at dancing to downbeat music. And seemed fairly intent on starting a mosh-pit.Alt-J in concert - Birmingham

Moving as swiftly as the crowd would allow away from the duo, I noticed that the varied make-up of the audience. Alt-J must have struck a chord with the folk of this land; perhaps intrigued by the unusual way Joe Newman sings, or the ethereal sounds that seep out of the band’s debut An Awesome Wave.

Whatever the ingredients, the formula is a winner for this moment in history – with the entire crowd knowing pretty much every word, as it turned out. The only thing that separated Alt-J‘s impeccably sharp performance from their recordings was when the band took a step back and let us sing.

It turned out that I knew most of the words too.

Alt-J in concert - BirminghamThere was a real sense of togetherness between the crowd and the band, and songs were performed and greeted like old standards, despite being all less than a year or so old.

The only new additions to the set were ‘Buffalo’ (Alt-J‘s contribution to the film Silver Linings Playbook) and a couple of unusual covers including (I was told by another member of the audience) a Kylie Minogue song.

But the true test of Alt-J‘s mettle will be in the coming years. Right now seems like the right time for them, and even though they didn’t continue the party spirit that I had left behind to see them, I was not disappointed.Alt-J in concert - Birmingham

The crowd rooted for them, and the fact that they are very likable, normal guys, I feel is a good part of their appeal.

The live show, however, is not dynamic; there was very little movement onstage and the songs are perfect replicas of their recorded counterparts. But the songs are good, and to be able to hear them at very high volumes is a treat.

Throw in some flashy lights and you’ve got yourself a lovely show. My advice would be to catch Alt-J in the smallest, most intimate club that you can, and catch them quick – before they become absolutely massive.

For more on Alt-J, visit

For further listings at the O2 Academy (Birmingham), visit