After Debut Album, Mercury, Alt-J Fills Terminal 5: Music
A double dose of guitars and the ghostly vocal of Joe Newman joined in as the English quartet built their pop-rock world at Terminal 5 on March 24.
The brief “Interlude I” followed, with a minute of folkish lyrics. The band’s distinctive musical delivery was emerging as the players crossed into “Tessellate.”
Unger-Hamilton’s piano meshed with the syncopated drumming of Thom Green. Gwil Sainsbury kept up a circling bass line and the crowd swayed as if rocking in the ocean. The song’s clutch-and-release patterns drifted effortlessly to its soothing end.
In “Something Good,” Green’s rhythmic drumming and Newman’s hushed vocals escalated with Unger-Hamilton’s ascending keys. The marching beat infused fans with an urge to hop around during the bouncy chorus.
As the band thanked the 3,000-strong audience for attending their biggest headline show to date -- all three levels of Terminal 5 were filled -- they could look back on a remarkable 12 months or so.
The debut album came out last May in the U.K. and in September Stateside, shortly after an August gig in the small Mercury Lounge. The band won the U.K.’s 2012 Barclaycard Mercury Prize in November.
The band managed this rapid rise without getting pigeon-holed. All night, they shifted genres, from the playful “Dissolve Me,” fueled by upbeat trumpet synths, to the dark “Fitzpleasure,” with rattling bass and cutting guitar.
“Bloodflood” slowed the pace, with a breezy guitar scale subduing the audience. The set-closing “Breezeblocks” erupted. Newman traded lyrics with the crowd. The music snaked and flowed from thumping bass lines to pounding drums to simple xylophone notes.
Newman and Unger-Hamilton returned for a stunning version of “Hand-Made.” After a cover of College’s “A Real Hero,” the rest of the group joined for the genre-bending “Taro.”
The group remains busy on a global tour for most of 2013. Their next local appearance is at the Governors Ball Music Festival on Randall’s Island, June 7-9.
Here’s a selection of New York-area shows in April. Please note that opening bands aren’t always listed. Shows marked (SO) are sold out, although online services such as Craigslist often have tickets:
April 2 The Black Crowes at the Capitol Theatre (SO) April 3 Waxahatchee/Certain Spiders at 285 Kent April 4 Frightened Rabbit/Wintersleep at Terminal 5 April 5 Jessie Ware/MS MR at Webster Hall April 6 Leonard Cohen at Radio City Music Hall (SO) April 7 Yeah Yeah Yeahs/Xray Eyeballs at Webster Hall (SO) April 8 The Black Angels/Allah-Las/Elephant Stone at Webster Hall April 9 Chris Thile and Brad Mehldau at Bowery Ballroom (SO) Hot Chip/Tanlines at Roseland Ballroom April 10 Rodriguez at Town Hall (SO) Caveman/Lucius/Pure Bathing Culture at Webster Hall April 11 Wavves/FIDLAR/Cheatahs at Glasslands Gallery April 12 Bonobo/Shigeto at Webster Hall (SO) Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 at Madison Square Garden April 13 Galactic/Toots & the Maytals at Terminal 5 Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 at Madison Square Garden April 14 MMOSS/Quilt/Prince Rubert’s Drops at Glasslands Gallery April 15 MUSE/Biffy Clyro at Madison Square Garden April 16 William Tyler/Zachary Cale at Mercury Lounge (Early) Born Ruffians/Moon King/Ski Lodge at Bowery Ballroom April 17 Rhye at Le Poisson Rouge (SO) Metz/Odonis Odonis/Soupcans at Bowery Ballroom April 18 Phosphorescent/Strand of Oaks at Bowery Ballroom (SO) April 19 Widowspeak at Knitting Factory (Early) Clinic/The Cobbs at Glasslands Gallery April 20 Iceage/White Lung/Parquet Courts at Bowery Ballroom (SO) April 21 Furthur at Capitol Theatre (SO) April 22 Maceo Parker at Blue Note (Early & Late) April 23 Brazos/Doug Keith/Boyd Shropshire at Cameo Gallery April 24 Akron/Family/Nightlands at Bowery Ballroom April 25 Kaki King at Mercury Lounge (Early & Late) Crossing Brooklyn Ferry at Brooklyn Academy of Music April 26 DOM/California X/Moss of Aura at Death By Audio Crossing Brooklyn Ferry at Brooklyn Academy of Music April 27 JJ Grey & Mofro at Irving Plaza Crossing Brooklyn Ferry at Brooklyn Academy of Music April 28 Vampire Weekend at Roseland Ballroom (SO) How to Destroy Angels/DIIV at Wellmont Theater April 29 Jim James/Cold Specks at Webster Hall (SO) April 30 Daughter at Bowery Ballroom (SO)
(Jaime Widder works in sales for Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard and Philip Boroff on theater, Daniel Akst on books.