Last time alt-J played Ireland, they were a band on the rise, already feeling as if they had outgrown the 1200 capacity of The Olympia – making for a truly memorable night. Fast forward nearly 18 months and the band have released their second album This Is All Yours to a flurry of media hype and attention. For a band that have risen through the ranks so quickly it is evitable that the ascend to larger venues will come with the territory, but going to an arena with ten times the capacity seems like a daunting transition. Nevertheless, here they at the 3Arena, two albums strong and with an adoring gaggle of fans sitting and standing in the wings.
The band open with first single from the new album ‘Hunger of the Pines’ to high spirits, leaving them to flow in to ‘Fitzpleasure’ with ease. The band weave new and (if you can call it) old material together perfectly, but by the time ‘Matilda’ comes in the rest of the material seems to get lost in the overwhelming settings, leaving important songs like ‘Tessellate’ and ‘Every Other Freckle’ floundering. By now the crowd have lost focus and the connection between band and fans has seemingly disappeared, leaving the band with nothing to feed off on.
They return with a bizzare ‘Lovely Day’ cover that feels out of place in the set and a closing with “Breezeblocks” which gets the crowd back on track and ensures everyone leave on a high note. alt-J are original and experimental, have made two vital albums but they’re far from an arena band yet. Like The XX who have played this venue in recent times, their sound and mood gets lost in the scale of the 3Arena and although they do their best to engage the crowd, there is no level of intimacy or anticipation to the show, which leaves their efforts flat. Until Dublin finds a venue in between this and the Olympia there will be a lot more fresh bands and exciting music getting lost in the rafters.
Photo: Olga Kuzmenko