alt-J inspires and relaxes Vancouver audience

Alt J with Bishop Briggs at Thunderbird Stadium, 11/13/17

Alt-J @ Doug
Photo by Jessica Vandergulik

Whether writing an essay, reading the classics, or contemplating life in the stipple of the ceiling, you’ve probably found yourself rocking alt-J’s indie profundity at one point or another. Whatever it is about music that quiets the mind and brings order to the chaos of daily life, alt-J has got it in spades.

Having kicked off their Relaxer world tour in France back in June, alt-J took to the stage at the packed Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre Friday night (Oct 13) to promote their newest album, Relaxer, which has been hailed as a conceptual masterpiece. As Lisa Wright of DIY writes, “[alt-J has] crafted possibly the most strangely original niche in modern music.” And how!

Opening for the band was British expat Bishop Briggs. If you’re not familiar with her, try to imagine all the ambient energy of deepest space crammed into a tracksuit racing back and forth across the stage a few hundred times a minute while maintaining a voice so high and pure it could wake the dead. Something like that.

Belting out singles like “Wild Horses,” “River,” and her newest single “Dream,” (released only yesterday, because, as Briggs stated, ‘I felt like I had to release it on Friday the 13th -just kinda my day”), Briggs (Sarah Grace McLaughlin) got the whole room jumping as she stomped the stage into submission.

Only a short while later, alt-J (stylized with the Delta symbol meaning ‘Change’) took to a stage lit with bars that segregated the performers and dazzled the eye with their lava-lamp-like displays. Launching immediately into the first song off their new album, “3WW,” the band segued into much-loved single “Something Good” and a couple others before lead singer Joe Newman finally addressed the audience with a heartbreakingly British “how you all doing this evening, Vancouver?”

Shifting seamlessly between hits like “Matilda” and “Taro,” and songs from Relaxer like “In Cold Blood” and “Deadcrush” (the lyrics of which almost everybody seemed to know as if they’d been singing them every day since birth), the band stopped only a few times to address the audience. That said, the mood in section 106 (and the rest of the packed stadium) was one of arm-flailing, giddy, giggling oneness.

After a brief break, the band returned for an encore where they handed over their certified-platinum single, “Breezeblocks,” a densely-layered masterpiece which was almost drowned out by the collective voices of the devotees. They then took centre-stage for one last thundering applause before disappearing into whatever ethereal realm first produced them.

The Relaxer world tour will complete in Houston, Texas in mid-November.