Alt-J closed out its U.S. tour on Tuesday at the Bluebird Theater, combining the beauty of a Simon Cowell-built boy band with a good amount of maturity. Sounding part Mumford & Sons and part CocoRosie, Alt-J performed a set that rivaled its recorded product on the Mercury Prize-winning album “An Awesome Wave.”
The set from the British indie band is an example of what years of practice in your college flat can produce — and more. Alt-J can make date music — romantic, a little funky, human and passionate. And yet it also begs for some intellectual investment, too. Frontman Joe Newman seemed to be trying to pull just a little more out of the giddy audience than mere call and response. His alternately guttural and then nasal, whining vocals rested almost perfectly upon the rest of the band’s instrumentation. There were a couple of off-key presses — probably more an indication of road-weariness than anything else.
The sold out audience was fully engaged through hits like “Matilda,” “MS,” “Bloodflood” and “Breezeblocks.” Shouting a chorus when Newman asked for it, trying their best to sing along with the oddly-phrased lyrics, the crowd remained hooked. When Alt-J took its leave the Bluebird begged, with stomping, screaming and chanting, for more. And the band returned to the brilliant (and mostly a capella) cover of “A Real Hero” from the movie “Drive.”
Alt-J can perform live some of the complex material from recorded sessions without feeling pretentious or planned. The foursome brought a smooth, chilled aspect to guitar-based pop construction, but one that draws comparison to more techno-centric outfits — most of whom Alt-J easily outshined.
Ryan Dearth is a Denver-based photographer and a new contributor to Reverb.