Alt-J steal the show on the second night of Bilbao BBK Live

10th July 2015

Azealia Banks and The Jesus and Mary Chain also play.

The second night of Bilbao BBK Live begins with a minor miracle - Azealia Banks has actually turned up for her set. Not only that, but she’s vaguely on-time, give or take ten minutes. For the first half of the set - which includes a costume change and everything - Banks patrols the stage in a queenly fashion, waving, and demanding “if you’re a bad bitch, slap your pussy right now.” Some people tend to peg Banks as a ‘212’-hit wonder, but set highlights like ‘Liquorice’ prove otherwise. A sly little “who dat, who dat’ shaped jibe aimed squarely at Iggy Azalea slips into one verse; elsewhere Banks switches it up effortlessly.

Later on the main stage, The Jesus and Mary Chain play their 1985 classic ‘Psychocandy’ in full. There’s far less in the way of quiffs held up by cement-strong hairspray these days, but thirty years on, ‘Psychocandy’ still has that static-covered, dangerous edge - like a sugar-coated gob-stopper with a wicked core of sour green apple sherbet. “I want your candy,” chides Jim Reid smuttily on ‘Some Candy Talking,’ while his brother William holds the melodic fort with spiraling guitar lines. It’s tiresome to watch reunion bands trundle wearily back out onto the stage - but only if they’re reunion bands that can’t really be arsed. Though The Jesus and Mary Chain are a fairly subdued bunch, introspectively looking down at their shoes, and wandering across the stage like its a rehearsal space, they pour every last ounce into ‘Psychocandy’ instead. The results are as potent as ever.

Just a few years ago, Alt-J were playing support slots for bands like Wild Beasts and Toro y Moi, and early evening billings in Bilbao. Look at them now. They sound absolutely massive. Joe Newman’s bizarre, gnarled vocal inspires valiant impressions across the mountain tonight, and Thom Green’s wonky, compact beats urge Gus Unger-Hamilton forward. The arch playfulness of Alt-J’s second record ‘This Is All Yours’ comes through crystal clear on the gigantic pop beast ‘Hunger of the Pine,’ and the swaggering, cock-sure ‘Left Hand Free’. Elsewhere, debut album cuts ‘Breezeblocks’ and ‘Fitzpleasure’ have the whole field making triangle signs. It’s like a scene from an informal illuminati conference.

Though they’re on the second stage tonight, playing second fiddle to French electronic madcaps Shaka Ponk, Alt-J evidently went to the same headliner-shoe shop as Mumford & Sons yesterday. In one deftly done set, they blow everybody else out of the water.

Photos: Sarah-Louise Bennett.

Tags: alt-J, Bilbao BBK Live, Festivals, Reviews, Live Reviews

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