British rock band Alt-J filled the Fillmore Auditorium with its perverse beats, intense harmonies and shifting vocals on Thursday night. The group’s 2012 release “An Awesome Wave” remains a pillar among recent albums, a landmark debut of a new voice that gained enough local momentum to sell out the Fillmore a week before the show.
With one record, they didn’t have a ton of material to play. So they made what they had count. “Fitzpleasure” came early with its a cappella intro and altered percussion. As soon as the track’s loud-quit-loud synths and guitars kicked in, the floor of the Fillmore erupted into a dance party.
That song’s ever-changing dynamic says much about Alt-J’s appeal. Not only are Alt-J’s vocals psych-trippy one minute and Dylanesque another but they also write songs that start out sounding Gregorian before they shift into industrial territory — and then a quiet interlude, and then some straightforward rock ‘n’ roll, and then a strong, unclassifiable, bombastic finish.
Listen to the many movements of “Tessellate” and imagine hearing the uniquely structured song in a live environment. Piano intro. Mellow vocal introduction. Seductive, almost whispered bridge into the chorus. Yearning, slowed-down breakdown.
It’s beautiful, especially when heard live, where Alt-J thrives.
Even though “Matilda” was the night’s biggest singalong, it’s one of the band’s lesser songs. Fittingly they saved “Breezeblocks” for the encore, and the side-winding song provided a proper goodbye for the night — especially at the song’s end when 3,600 people were singing/shouting along with the “please don’t go/please don’t go/I love you so/I love you so.”
Indie folkers Lord Huron opened the show with a perfectly likable set of songs that were more exciting than 2012’s very pretty “Lonesome Dreams.” The band’s more upbeat songs won over (and warmed up) the early crowd at the Fillmore. The group saved “Time to Run” for later in the set, and it was a lovely moment seeing the band — which recently played the Denver Post’s UMS — managing the crowd with such expertise.
Lisa Higginbotham is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb.