Talk about a pure indie takeover of massive proportions! On March 25th, indie giants Portugal. The Man and Alt-J mesmerized fans with stellar performances that kept the entire arena on its toes.
Right before their set, Portugal. The Man took to the stage, accompanied by local representatives of the American Indian Movement and Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality, and reminded us that we all live on stolen land. While the mood was solemn during this reminder, things quickly lightened as the arena dimmed its lights.
The timeless and unforgettable chuckles of MTV’s own Beavis and Butthead took over the giant screen behind the stage, poking fun at the band’s huge hit “Feel It Still.” I have to say that was probably the best band introduction I have ever witnessed; the entire crowd cracked up and the bars were instantaneously set high for a night of pure fun and high energy, which was certainly delivered.
With no time wasted, the band ripped through a short, but perfectly delivered set that had the crowd jumping throughout. They played crowd favorites, such as “Live in the Moment” and “Modern Jesus,” but also gave fans some amazing covers that had the crowd screaming at the top of their lungs. Some of those highly-appreciated covers included songs from Nirvana, Pantera, Metallica, and Pink Floyd.
Alt-J took the stage and their approach was a little different. Their set started softer, with a moodier tone, almost engulfing the audience in a trance-like journey that kept everyone captive wide-eyed, staring into the air waiting to see what was coming next.
Their stage was a huge elevated box, divided into three frames in which each member stood the entire show. Lush, ever-changing images and sceneries were projected around them, giving the sound an aura of almost mystical level when accompanied by the band’s haunting tunes and Joe Newman’s unforgettable voice. At the opening of their set, the raised stage appeared surrounded by flickering candles as they started off with “Bane,” the opening track of their latest release, “The Dream.”
They followed with “Every Other Freckle,” which was received with continuous screams of fans as they seemed unable to hold the excitement in. I am sure part of the excitement is the return of live shows, but also the fact that the production in this show seemed capable of amplifying the magnitude of their masterful performance, allowing you to feel like you are a part of the performance. The elaborate, three-dimensional stage design and the ever-changing images projected worked so well alongside the music, it became an extension of each song; an extra tool that helped create an out-of-this-world illusion that guaranteed the audience an unforgettable evening.
The third song of the evening, just like the opening tune, revisits the dark theme of addiction. “The Actor” is a fictional story recounting how a struggling actor turns into a drug dealer to subsidize his acting career, and in the story, sold John Belushi the drugs that killed him.
“In Cold Blood,” from the album “Relaxer” was next, and then they continued to revisit “Relaxer” with “Deadcrush.” They moved onto “An Awesome Wave” with the song “Tessellate,” which had the entire crowd dancing. “U&ME” off their new record followed, and then “Matilda,” which turned the arena into a sort of karaoke bar moment when every single person seemed to sing along in unity.
While I was obviously stoked to hear all the songs that made me fall in love with the band (like “Taro,” “Matilda,” and “In Cold Blood”), I was just as excited to hear their new work and experience it live; “Chicago” has the unique ability to echo and pulse in your head, and “U&ME” and “Hard Drive Gold” are also great tracks.
If you have never caught this band live, I encourage you to do so in the future. While their albums are great, I am a firm believer that Alt-J is a band best served live. Their shows are experiences of epic proportions.