A double-headliner with two of the biggest names in today’s modern alternative scene? Count me in! I was lucky enough to catch alt-J and Portugal. The Man on their final leg of their 2022 US Tour at Boston’s Agganis Arena last week. Scroll down to hear a few of my thoughts on the show, and some pictures from each set!
LA-based rock group Cherry Glazerr kicked off the evening with a super entertaining set overflowing with talent. Grungy vocals and electric guitar, paired with smooth and controlled bass and keys gave Cherry Glazzerr a new edge on a classic sound, instantly grabbing the attention of fans new and old. After seeing their set, it’s no doubt that they’ll be making big moves soon, and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next (hopefully another trip to the east coast?).
As Portugal. The Man stepped out, the stage began to flood with bold colors and hazy fog, a space the band occupied for the majority of their set. The focus taken away from the members themselves allowed for the music to really take center stage and absorb into the crowd. Blown-out bass riffs, fuzzy guitar, and sweeping synths weaved throughout the arena as projectors showed everything from abstracted colors and shapes to clips from Beavis and Butt-head. Their setlist itself was an absolute treat as well, featuring a wide breadth of their own catalog, in addition to covers of Nirvana’s “In Bloom”, Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”, and “Day Man”, performed by Charlie Day in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Prior to Portugal. The Man taking the stage for their set, they quite literally passed the mic to a representative of the local Massachusetts Native community. PTM cites their closeness with the native community in their hometown of Wasilla, Alaska as a driving force for recognizing and celebrating native communities and land wherever they tour. While on stage, the native representative took time to recognize each native group who has occupied the spaces in and around boston, as well as sing a brief song as well as reminding that crowd that “we are all on native land”. In a similar fashion, PTM ended their set with a grounding anti-war projection reading “War is a crime against humanity. Free Ukraine. Free Yemen. Free Afghanistan. Free Ethiopia”. PTM’s demonstrations served a dual purpose; a reminder of the state of the world around us, and a call to action to support and uplift those who are unfairly treated. Bookending their performance with these moments left fans with more than just memories of the set, but (hopefully) a sense of empathy as well.
With anticipation built, Leeds-based trio alt-J took the stage to round out the evening’s bill. Coming fresh off their newest album, The Dream’s release in February of 2022, the crowd was more than hungry for the group to display their iconic experimentalism and mix of alt rock, indie, and psychedelia.
alt-J’s live performance was unlike any I had seen before. The trio looked over the crowd from a set of stage risers, hidden inside a semi-transparent mesh cube clouded with fog. As they began to play, projections of candles illuminated the space around them, creating a window into a new world. As their set continued, mesmerizing projections of blossoming trees, tidal waves, and dancing lights streaked across the performers faces, each pairing perfectly with the emotion and energy of the songs. Vivid colors flooded the arena and synchronized with every drum hit, guitar riff, and synth build, leaving the crowd absolutely transfixed.
Their set was filled with songs from their newest album, The Dream, as well as some of their bigger hits like “Fitzpleasure”, “Breezeblocks”, and “Left Hand Free”. Joe Newman’s iconic vocals, backed by Gus Unger-Hamilton on the keys, cut through the crowd and delivered the same energy seen throughout their musical back catalog. In addition to the anti-war sentiment ushered in by Portugal. The Man, alt-J proudly projected the Ukrainian flag as they left the stage from their act. Upon returning for their encore, Unger-Hamilton put the groups thoughts quite simply by telling the Boston crowd that they “stand with the courageous people of Ukraine, and quite simply, f*** Putin”.
All in all, alt-J’s set proved to be an exploration of the boundaries and expectations we place on a live performance. The band provided a new layer to the typical live show experience, making a brand new environment that melded perfectly with their sweeping and psychedelic sound.
While the North American leg of their tour has ended, I cannot recommend catching any of these three bands enough next time they stop in your city, and be sure to check out alt-J’s new album, The Dream, available wherever you stream your tunes!