alt-J dazzle a sold-out Rams Head Live! in Baltimore on March 15, 2023. (Photo by David LaMason)
The Leeds-based trio alt-J (also known by the Δ) has been celebrating the 10th anniversary of their debut LP, An Awesome Wave with a host of packed concerts that have sold out across the globe, and their recent night at Baltimore’s Rams Head Live! was no exception. In fact, as I walked up to the venue over an hour before doors, there was a huge line that had already formed to see this band who, until this past year, had been on an indefinite hiatus that began in 2018.
alt-J is a band that is about visuals and not just in their stage presentation. Songs like “Tessallate” from the aforementioned debut is a term that describes the configuration of connecting polygons. Joe Newman even sang “triangles are my favorite shape” on the track.
And on March 15 at Rams Head Live!, the three band members — Newman on vocals/guitar, Thom Sonny Green on drums and electronic percussion, and Gus Unger-Hamilton on keyboards and vocals — were framed by a visually stunning light show behind and around them. You couldn’t help but be impressed at how it all came together. The lights, along with the thumping and flowing music, built layer on layer. And the energy was palpable as it seemed to radiate back toward the trio from this absolutely shoulder-to-shoulder packed crowd.
Continuing the anniversary celebration, alt-J performed their brilliant debut in its entirety from the “Intro” to the beautifully finger-picked closer of “Hand-Made.” “Dissolve Me” was one of my favorite songs, and it seemed to hit all the bits that make alt-J such a great band — the harmonies, the rhythm, and that refrain that goes on repeating, She makes the sound the sea makes, knee-deep in the North Sea.
“I’m gonna sing and I’d like you guys to sing too,” Gus told the crowd during a rare breather in between songs. “This is from…this is from…” Gus sang acapella. “This is from Matilda!” everyone in this crowded club sang back before the ringing guitar tones kicked in.
One of the great things about An Awesome Wave as a collection of songs: It is a true ride with a varying feel from one moment to the next, and witnessing that really had a way of putting those pieces together. From cool and calm one moment to the grooving power to a song like “Fitzpleasure” with everyone in the house clapping along made for a set that didn’t drop the ball even for a second.
After playing the entirety of An Awesome Wave, alt-J went on to play a sampling of songs from each of their other releases, from 2022’s The Dream to that catchy “Every Other Freckle” from their sophomore release, This Is All Yours, a funky jam that incorporates everything from Gregorian-style harmonies to cowbell and flute.
Watch the official music video for “Hard Drive Gold” by alt-J on YouTube:
ajt-J continues their Dream Tour / An Awesome Wave Anniversary Tour with stops on the West Coast and then off to Australia and Europe. It’s definitely an experience not to miss.
The setlist included:
Intro (An Awesome Wave)
❦ (Ripe & Ruin) / Interlude 1
The Gospel of John Hurt
Every Other Freckle
In Cold Blood
Hard Drive Gold
Left Hand Free
Here are more photos of alt-J performing at Rams Head Live! on March 15, 2023. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.