By Devin Mulvey
SC Staff Writer
Monday, March 30, indie rock band Alt-J headlined at Madison Square Garden with indie electronic group, Phantogram, as their opener.
Fortunately, I was able to score some great seats close enough to the stage to make out the faces of the band members.
Admittedly, I arrived late to Phantogram’s set and walked in while they were playing “Black Out Days.” As soon as I stepped into the stadium, however, I was crushed under an ethereal, bass driven soundscape.
The pounding rhythm was accented with echoing, synthesized snares that snapped and reverberated in the massive venue.
Surprisingly, Phantogram vocalist Sarah Barthel’s whispery haunting voice could be heard clearly in the pounding percussion set forth by the bands electronics.
The lights were synced perfectly to the band’s sonic palette. Beams of green, white, and red light cut through the dark vacuous hall with every loud synthesized rim shot. Needless to say, it was transfixing.
The band played a huge set of crowd-pleasing favorites with songs like “Don’t Move,” “When I’m Small,” and “Fall in Love.” “Don’t Move” was the highlight of their performance.
The musical arrangement was lush. The rhythm pulsed and shuffled along and the crowd could not help, but move to the music.
It was a spectacle to see such a vibrant and talented opening band (as well as, Barthel donning extremely loud sequined gold leggings). They set the bar for the headliner very high.
When Alt-J came on the crowd went crazy.
They opened with their syncopated trip hop inspired, “Hunger of the Pine.” I could tell it was going be a good night with Thom Green’s robotic timing on drums and Joe Newman’s clear falsetto vocals.
From that point on, I was lost in the sonic flow of songs that the band was performing.
It was easy to recognize the chirping and wobbly keyboard riffs of “Dissolve Me,” as soon as Gus Unger-Hamilton opened the song.
The drums shuffled lazily along with the keyboards propelling the song forward at an easy pace.
The only thing keeping me from floating away with the chirping keyboards and reverbed guitar riffs was the crushing, synthesized bass line.
When the band reached the hushed vocal bridge, Newman and Hamilton soared as a duet.
Needles to say, it was a good concert. The clarity of the instruments was unparalleled.
The bass was so well amplified that the low notes made your bones rattle.
The performance held a balance of visceral and calm. Both bands filled the massive venue with their larger-than-life sounds.
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