Search This Blog

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Alt-J: Live At Red Rocks


1) Hunger Of The Pine; 2) Fitzpleasure; 3) Something Good; 4) Left Hand Free; 5) Dissolve Me; 6) Matilda / Inter­lude 2; 7) Bloodflood; 8) Bloodflood Pt. 2; 9) Interlude 1; 10) Tessellate; 11) Every Other Freckle; 12) Taro; 13) Warm Foothills; 14) The Gospel Of John Hurt; 15) Lovely Day; 16) Nara; 17) Leaving Nara; 18) Breezeblocks.

For those who really want to know, this is my opinion of the live incarnation of Alt-J in a nutshell. They make a very professional recreation of their studio sound, and if you happened to dislike the electronic treatment of the drums on the studio records, this problem pretty much goes away on stage. Apart from that, the typical live performance by these guys has nothing to offer in terms of extra energy or extra inventiveness — one more reason why they cannot (for now, at least) qualify as the new Radiohead, considering how the old one would always treat the stage as a setting for exorcism ceremonies.

That said, why a live album in the first place? These guys have only had two studio records out so far; isn't a lavish live offering like this one (CD, DVD, Blu-ray, LPs, 32 page photo book and a frickin' necklace?) a bit premature? It's not as if Alt-J had developed a ferocious live reputation or anything — to me, it seems a bit unpleasant, like a certain «new royalty» gesture, capitalizing on the band's commercial and critical success. It is one of those «hey, Alt-J have just released a grand live album, so they must be really good, right?» kind of gestures that can seem rather off-putting, even if there are no formal grounds for direct accusations.

On the positive side, the sound quality is magnificent, and, admittedly, I can see where at least some songs might be preferable to their studio counterparts — not because they are better played or playfully rearranged, but simply because they are better mixed. For instance, ʽThe Gospel Of John Hurtʼ in its original state had muffled keyboards and limp vocals: here, the chimes, played with metronomic precision, simply leap out of the speakers, and the voices sound more human, perhaps sagging and faltering here and there, but showing a little more personality. The guitar riff of ʽFitzpleasureʼ, all wispy and echoey on the original, is so much louder and firmer here live that you almost might say that the stage is where Alt-J's music really comes alive...

...but no, I will not say that. The only surprise on the album is a cover of Bill Withers' ʽLovely Dayʼ, which used to be a cheerful R&B groove back in 1977 — now everything that remains are the words, and everything else comes from Alt-J's glossy refrigerator. With the slowed down tempo, the chilly keyboards, the droning guitar, and the tranquilized drums, they efficiently put that song to sleep, and I have no idea why they would do that with a lively Bill Withers song from 1977, of all possible choices. In any case, be it Bill Withers, Buck Owens, or G. G. Allin, we may be sure that any cover by any artist in the hands of these guys will always be reduced to the same kind of omni-gel — and, honestly, I'd prefer them to stick to their own compositions rather than decompose and assimilate somebody else's.

Other than that, Live At Red Rocks predictably reproduces the bulk of the material from their two albums in an almost too safely predictable running order — some big hit singles at the start, and the biggest one (ʽBreezeblocksʼ) saved up for the encore. In-between song banter is scarce, but present in order to make a good impression — for all their weirdness, they are all nice boys from well-behaving families, and they have come here to Red Rocks to work collective magic with their fantastic audience. It's all cool. It's just sort of superfluous. Give them ten years and a good chance to go completely ga-ga, and maybe the live Alt-J experience will turn into some crazyass Björkish extravaganza, but for now, they might be just a little too nice for this shit.

No comments:

Post a Comment