Alt-J & Manchester Central – a duo that is definitely up there on the matches made in heaven list, alongside peanut butter & banana or Courtney Love & Kurt Cobain. Festival speakers hang from each side of the stage and an impressive catenary curved roof spans over the wave of fans who are eager to see the geometry-obsessed nerd rockers embark on their latest UK tour.

Naming themselves the Latin symbol delta (created by typing the “alt” and “j” keys on a Mac) is the first clue as to how innovative the Leeds-based quartet are. In the band’s bio, we are told that it’s “used to show change or difference in mathematical equations.” Change and difference must be something they are well accustomed to – from supporting Ghostpoet at Deaf Institute just four years ago to being supported by Ghostpoet here tonight. ∆ have certainly been through a whirlwind of change which has seen them go from bashing pots and pans in university halls to muddling through and getting their hands on a Mercury award.

All members appear dressed head to toe in casual black; as if to be mourning their planned futures as fine art graduates, but with smug expressions; as if to be noting their effortless ability to fill this fascinating venue. True to their nature, the four stand a few yards apart from each other and stay there for the entirety of the set, as if to be a Connect 4 line, with each piece playing a strategic part in winning the game.

‘Intro’ is appropriately placed at the start of the set and it’s indicative of what’s to come. Copy and pasted vocal samples, a distorted bass and sparse guitars create distinguishable layers rather than a wall of sound and boast the clever stripped back simplicity ∆ are celebrated for.

They don’t talk much, which is unexpected considering ∆ are now an appeal which has caused fans to flock in their thousands and hold up finger formed triangles as a sign of devotion. Yet it’s sort of more appealing that they don’t demonstrate the cliche charisma or pretentious egos you’d expect from arena sell-outs.

Often regarded as the ‘least ∆ song ever’ but one of their biggest singles to date, the tongue-in-cheek ‘Left Hand Free’ is still worshipped tonight. Many try and fail to sing along to it’s nonsensical Southern-fried lyrics which were written up in just twenty minutes to please ∆’s American label and it’s quite entertaining to watch.

Before long ∆ have seduced us with an impressive light show and the cinematic sweep of their meticulous first album. ‘Taro’ is a highlight as it tells the tragic love story of two war photographers with an experimentalist bhangra-esque riff. And the chimes and thuds in ‘Bloodflood’ remind us of how skilfully ∆ messed with the formula to become masters of their own craft.

Fan favourite ‘Breezeblocks’ brings the night to an epic finale as the crowd are immersed in a cloud of smothering synths. It feels as though this has been written with the intention of closing such seamless sets as the fans throw their three-sided shapes one more time and continue to echo “please don’t go please don’t go, I love you so I love you so” into the Deansgate darkness.

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Amy-Lea Wright

A multimedia journalism student at MMU, thrives on red hot chili peppers, survives on instant noodles.