Remembering 2022 – alt-J // Wilderado // Live Review // The Telegraph Building // Belfast
Leeds trio alt-Jmake a glorious return to Belfast post-pandemic and tonight is my first time both catching the band live and walking through the doors of the Telegraph Building itself since 2019. #totesemotes on multiple fronts, all to enjoy the mesmerising ambient rock of alt-J, which is going to be filling this room very shortly on a school night too!
The guys are crammed into a week of magical gigs locally with US rockers Ugly Kid Joe making a statement on Monday, The Mission doing their thing in Belfast just yesterday, while My Chemical Romance ripped up Dublin last night also, and the mighty Queen and Bryan Adams rocking the city this weekend. It is hard to believe that in such a short time we have all come so far, thankfully we have.
Tonight, however, is party time, Maxim Rainer (lead vocals, guitar), Tyler Wimpee (guitar, vocals) and Justin Kila (drums) otherwise known as Wilderadoare here to make their mark on the Telegraph crowd bringing their Tulsa brand of Indie-Rock to Belfast, they are a long way from home but we’ll no doubt shower them with some Northern-Irish hospitality.
Fresh from the release of their eponymous debut album, sold-out US headline tour and national TV performance The fast-rising American trio have just completed an entirely sold-out two-month nationwide tour of the US, with current single ‘Head Right’ already breaking into the top 10 US Alternative Radio Chart and earning the band an invitation to perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live! So I have high expectations from the Tulsa trio, lets’s see how it all translates to the Irish party goers.
The lights drop at 7:55 sharp and five unassuming gents stroll onto the stage and pick up their instruments one by one. A brief pause before the guitarist starts picking out a few notes to their opening track, before the guys join together in the most beautiful vocal harmony and right then, right there, Wilderado wins over the hearts and minds of the Northern Irish crowd. The guys have an ebb and flow about their musical style that is just effortless in how it translates to the live scene. These vocal runs sit beautifully alongside the melodic style of the songwriting that just mesmerises the audience into submission. Clearly, a talented bunch of guys, the keyboard/guitar player/vocalist and the bassist are throwing in backing vocals too whilst the lead guitar player handles the heavier vocal harmonies and melodic vocal runs that tie the songs together, it’s a beautiful thing to witness live. I have always been a fan of bands that incorporate vocal harmonies, alternative, indie, rock whatever the genre I appreciate the soundscape it creates and these guys deliver it seamlessly. The sound created is just huge, filled with multi-layered parts that combine to make the most glorious soundtrack to the evening and this is only the support band! Belfast is indeed being treated well tonight. Now for the main act.
alt–J is one of the most successful British bands of the millennium. Joe Newman, Gus Unger-Hamilton and Thom Green have released three studio albums that, between them, have sold in excess of two million copies and their songs have been streamed over two and a half billion times. Their 2012 Mercury Prize and Ivor Novello Award-winning debut An Awesome Wave, was followed two years later by their number one, GRAMMY and BRIT Award-nominated album This Is All Yours. Released in 2017, RELAXER flew straight into the top 10 of the UK album chart ahead of a summer of major international shows – including a headline show at London’s O2 Arena; and headline performances at numerous festivals became their second album to be nominated for the Mercury Prize.
The stage change over is quite dramatic, the packed space has now been cleared and a raised stage on the original stage now stands before me .. nay .. above me! Looks bitching though and the mind boggles at what lighting challenges it will throw at me but goddam gurl you sure do look purdy!
A sea of hipsters has filled the room, student types, alternative sheeple and the like have gathered at the altar to workshop their gods. The Leeds trio have already played to a sold-out tour across the UK and the Belfast show is one of the last on the run so, we better deliver for them. As the rooms pack out and the time draws near and Superstar DJ plays over the PA you know this crowd is up for it.
The guys open up with a slow burner to set the mood, with barely any light on them as a band you can just make out their silhouettes above us. But as the set progresses the light show intensifies as does the energy on stage and in the room. alt-J are masters of ambient rock, telling stories and building atmosphere in a song until it is ready to burst at the seams. Their melancholic style has the Belfast crowd engrossed from the off and swaying bodies can be seen far and wide. Every song ends greeted with rapturous applause, I have to say alt-J probably is one of the most unique bands I have witnessed in quite a while. A fusion of styles and almost decades of influences pouring out across the stage it truly is a visual and sonic experience like no other. I love going into a gig blind, taking your very first breath of a new band, soaking up all that glorious live magic that is created on stage, but I am rarely blindsided by an act, yet tonight I was. alt-J are so much more than I was prepared for.
The sublime sonic tapestry weaved this evening will not be forgotten for a long time.