Crowd begs alt-J to “please don’t go” at Orpheum Theater


Josh Axelrod | Senior Staff Photographer

British band alt-J performs hits from all three of their albums at the Orpheum Theater. The trio stayed within their prison-like stage sets, separated by bars.

White lights flashed, crowds shouted, smoke billowed and then — darkness. Finally, alt-J moved onto the stage and opened with the smooth instrumentals of “3WW.”

The British trio performed Monday at the Orpheum Theater, integrating music from all three of its albums, “An Awesome Wave,” “This Is All Yours” and its most recent, “RELAXER.” Returning to New Orleans after its 2015 tour, alt-J mesmerized the crowd with bold lights and eerie voices.

Alt-J stood separated by barriers on the stage, emphasizing the trio motif in its composition and musical themes. As the name “alt-J” comes from the keystrokes used to type a triangle or delta, the idea of threes is at the core of its identity. This was especially apparent in “Tessellate” as the trio sang, encapsulated by teal lights, “Triangles are my favorite shape, three points where two lines meet.”

Despite the dynamic vocals and radiating lights, a lack of dialogue or engagement with the crowd prevented the band from connecting with the audience personally. Besides a quick “How is everyone tonight?” the concert was straightforward, moving directly through the set from one song to the next. This technique did, however, maintain a mysterious vibe throughout the show by preventing the audience from glimpsing the personalities behind the music.

Opening the show, Noah McBeth, better known by the stage name NoMBe, displayed some of his mellow, electronic singles, including “Wait” and “Freak Like Me.”

Alt-J’s sweet but somber melodies enraptured casual concert-goers and die-hard front row fans alike, while the drums provided a steady energy to each piece. With “Interlude 1,” the a cappella performance demonstrated the band’s knack for using vocals not just for lyrical purposes, but also as a necessary instrument. The exaggerated breaths and “oohs” added another dimension to the music, pulling the listener into its melancholy depths.

Other notable songs performed were “Deadcrush,” “In Cold Blood” and “Every Other Freckle,” all emotionally-charged songs that describe generally uplifting subjects with an ominous twist. This theme is also evident in the “RELAXER” album cover, depicting a fairly ambiguous scene in which a murder seems to have occurred. Though it was slightly disappointing that alt-J’s cover of “House of the Rising Sun” was not performed in New Orleans, the otherwise captivating concert was worth it.

Alt-J closed the show with an encore performance of hits “Left Hand Free” and “Breezeblocks,” once again meshing albums with an upbeat conclusion to a dreamlike concert and leaving the crowd shouting along, “Please don’t go, please don’t go. I love you so, I love you so.”

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