Concorde 2, Brighton, 4 November
That tonight’s gig at the Concorde 2 in Brighton was going to be sold out anyway was a given. Throw into the mix the fact that the headlines have recently won a Mercury Award and this is one of their first shows since and there is a frisson of excitement in the room.
But, before we get to Alt-J, it was the job of Stealing Sheep to open the night.
You might have thought that the support act would be met with some impatience by an audience fizzing with anticipation at the thought of seeing Alt-J take the stage; this was never going to be one of the easiest of slots given their recent win, especially seeing as it’s taking place on a Sunday evening. However, there were clearly a number of fans already in the audience to see Liverpudlians Stealing Sheep open the night. The trio were imbued with all the ethereal quirkiness you would except from an indie folk band with psychedelic influences, who draw comparisons to Joanna Newsom and Cat Power and deal in eerie harmonies of the kind to be found in pagan rituals, both in image (long flowing hair, longer flowing sequin skirts) and music (lots of hand claps and tambourine pounding).
By comparison, Alt-J’s set seemed almost sedate or, to use a phrase oft bandied about in relation to the band, ‘polite,’ playing under the light of the giant triangle in the background with a cool self-possession. The same can’t be said for their crowd, who greeted their appearance on stage with raucous applause and noisily echoed back Joe Newman’s vocals on Tesselate and Matilda. Speaking of impeccable manners, there’s not a mention of their win; instead, Newman notes it’s a special show for them as he’s originally from Southampton, loves Brighton and has some friends in the audience. A mellow mash up of Kylie Minogue and Dr Dre’s Slow/Still Dre was a surprising favourite of the set, before they left the stage to return minutes later for their encore. At first, it’s simply Newman and Gus Unger-Hamilton for a stripped back performance, Unger-Hamilton swapping synth riffs for the glockenspiel, before welcoming the rest of the band back on stage for a finale of Tyro.