Live Review: Rex Orange County
Larissa Dunn reviews her time seeing Rex Orange County at The Marble Factory, Bristol.
The release of a shiny-new-album-titled-all-in-caps-lock can only mean one thing… It’s tour time! I managed to catch Alex at the start of his WHO CARES? tour at Bristol’s The Marble Factory: the first of two shows that night due to sheer demand. From the get go I was fairly sceptical for this gig—I expected a horde of 16 year olds screaming behind their iPhones. Was I disappointed? No–I mean yes. At one point during the finale of ‘Best Friend’ he asked everyone to put their phones down. “Just for this one last song, can it just be me and you?” From my birdseye view on the balcony, blaring screens switched off, the kids stopped playing 8 Ball Pool, the crowd was total darkness. I took a swig of my Punk IPA. That was more like it.
Rant over (and of course I’m pleased that more young people are interested in live music). Alex began his set with songs off his new album WHO CARES?. From ‘KEEP IT UP’ followed by ‘OPEN A WINDOW’, he started off the gig pretty convincingly and you could sense the novelty of these songs, unlike his older ones which he’s played hundreds of times. I feel sorry for artists who have to play their music night after night, losing the personal connection to their own artwork. It’s a bit like saying your name too many times and you no longer know who you are anymore. After four songs from his new album he (apologetically?) asked the crowd if he could play some more. No Alex, please don’t play from your UK no.1 album. He played two more after reassurance from the tweens.
I like Alex—I think he’s cheeky but he’s also introverted.
After this, he went back in time through his discography; ‘Corduroy Dreams’ rebirthed a 16 year old Alex, whistling along to the strum of the guitar, titillating the audience with the playful pause between “must let you…” and “go”. My personal favourite, and probably the best performance of the night was ‘Television/So Far So Good’. I’m unsure if it was just my own excitement to finally hear this live, but the atmosphere was electric and he really seemed to be having fun with this track. He even slipped a personal note into the song. After the lyrics “she still remains in my life” he added the aside: “yes she does”. An ode to a past lover? Yes, I heard that Alex—and good for you!
His personality also really shone through at the end of the song with the almost-meta-moment: “I want the crowd in tears when they hear this, is that so wrong?” followed by a cheeky, apologetic shrug. My only criticism—the bass was a bit overdone and probably shook the entirety of Bristol. His penultimate song ‘Loving is Easy’ paid homage to Benny Sings, a great solo artist from Amsterdam, who helped write Rex’s new album. And then finally, ‘Best Friends’. No encore. We have come full circle.
you could sense the novelty of these songs, unlike his older ones which he’s played hundreds of times.
I like Alex—I think he’s cheeky but he’s also introverted. At one point he stopped what he was doing to announce that he got “the giggles”. He also played with the crowd; he asked for the lights to be raised so he could see everyone in all their glory. However, I also sensed a disillusionment from him during his performance, one that has been almost explicitly addressed in his lyrics. From: “I see all these people that love me but I still feel alone” to “you no longer owe the strangers”, Alex appears to have trouble bridging this distance between himself and his fans.
The most poignant part of the gig was when a fan shouted out to him: “I love you” to which he replied: “I love you too… someone”. I guess that’s the cost of performing deeply intimate music to a group of people you will never be intimate with. Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. My words of advice to you Rex: KEEP IT UP!