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As a fan of Alt-J, even I was caught off guard when they announced that they were playing Madison Square Garden. They only just released their debut album An Awesome Wave three years ago. But with the release of their sophomore album This Is All Yous last year, the Leeds-based group have only gotten bigger and bigger with each passing moment. It took some of today’s prolific acts such as Arctic Monkeys nearly double that amount time to finally grace the stage of the world’s most famous arena, so many people doubted that Alt-J were ready for these huge leap into the big time. Last night they proved all the doubters wrong as they not only sold out The Garden, but they put on a bold and confident performance that filled out the large space with ease.

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The night was started with a set from Phantogram, the New York duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter. Their career arc isn’t too different from Alt-J, starting from humble beginnings (Barsuk Records), and now one of the more popular acts in the game (they’re now on Republic Records). They got the show started with a energetic set that saw many of their own fans in the crowd, just as eager to see them as Alt-J. No surprise, as Phantogram always deliver a thunderous live performance led by Barhel’s mesmerizing vocals and a electronic-rock hybrid sound that hits like a hammer. This was my first time seeing them since their set at Governors Ball three years ago, so I’d say I’m long overdue to catch a proper Phantogram show of their own someday.

The story of Alt-J is one of the most interesting and thrilling stories in music today. They’re a band that sticks to their own unique formula and sound, with often unintelligible lyrics from singer Joe Newman, who sounds like no one else but himself. Yet, they’ve tapped into something both meaningful and person for so many fans, capturing a huge audience almost instantly. They lost one of their original members Gwil Sainsbury just as they hit the big time, yet managed to push through and find even more success. New bassist Cameron Knight has done a great job, proving to be a real compliment to the incredible percussion of drummer Thom Green, who is always a pleasure to watch behind the drum kit.

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I last saw Alt-J when they stopped in for a last minute performance at the very intimate Rough Trade NYC last fall, a show booked to show off songs that would end up on This Is All Yours. I knew that it would probably be the last time I got to see them in such a room, but even I wasn’t prepared to see them next at MSG. It seemed like a pretty ballsy move on all accounts, but the group proved me very wrong last night as they were quite simply, naturals for the big stage.

They set the mood and atmosphere with lead-off cut “Hunger Of The Pine,” which got the audience warmed up and ready to loose their minds when “Fitzpleasure” followed. With duties that come with headlining an arena show, the group had to stretch their set as long as possible, and with only so many songs throughout their two albums, there wasn’t too much guessing as to what they would play. This was by no means a bad thing. In fact, it’s probably the only big stadium show’s that you could have gone to without critiquing a bands song selection.

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All fans got pretty much everything they could have wanted to hear. From the still mesmerizing “Matilda,” “Tessellate,” and “Taro” from their debut, to the already standard new cuts from the new record, such as “Left Hand Free,” “Every Other Freckle,” and “The Gospel Of John Hurt.” Fans shouted just as loud during the chants of “Taro” as they cheered during frontman Joe Newman’s whistling during “Warm Foothills.” They tipped their caps to older fans with older cut “Leon” that saw keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton reminisce about their old days playing it back at Leeds. Their cover of Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” (which was a bonus track on the new album) began the encore which was rounded out with the companion pieces “Nara” and “Leaving Nara,” as well as the riveting finishing punch of “Breezeblocks.”

Alt-J successfully took over Madison Square Garden and made it look easy along the way. It’s a big step for the group, with many more big steps along the way. In fact, Alt-J are really only getting started, which makes all of this all the more impressive. Excited to see what else the future will bring for one of the most pleasant success stories of this era.

Below find Alt-J’s set list, as well as photos of both them and Phantogram.

Alt-J Setlist:

1. Hunger of the Pine
2. Fitzpleasure
3. Something Good
4. Left Hand Free
5. Dissolve Me
6. Matilda
7. ❦ (Guitar)
8. Bloodflood
9. Bloodflood Pt. 2
10, Leon
11. ❦ (Ripe & Ruin)
12. Tessellate
13. Every Other Freckle
14. Taro
15. Warm Foothills

16 The Gospel of John Hurt


17. Lovely Day (Bill Withers Cover)
18. Nara
19. Leaving Nara
20. Breezeblocks


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Alt-J and Kamasi Washington at Forest Hills Stadium (June 15, 2018) - We All Want Someone To Shout For at We All Want Someone To Shout For Recent comment authors
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[…] Last year English trio Alt-J returned with their third album Relaxer, which was released via Canvasback Music. Although they stopped into New York last summer for a performance at the Panorama Music Festival, they never did come to New York for a proper headlining show of their own in support of the new album (we last caught them in 2015 when they played MSG). […]


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