Alex G gig review

Alex G at Roundhouse review | Bewitching indie-rocker makes the music do the talking

★★★★☆

Alex G crafted a rapturous set at Roundhouse, with tunes from his most recent album, God Save The Animals, peppered with songs from his wide-ranging catalogue. Read our review.

Performers don’t typically give away that there’ll be an encore, but such is the honesty of Alex Giannascoli, aka Alex G, that between playing the final two tracks from his latest album – the deftly heart-wrenching ‘Miracles’ and the spiritual cleanser of ‘Forgive’ – he told the Roundhouse folk in his Philly twang, “There’s gonna be some more songs, then there’ll be an encore”.

Granted, it’s not the most exclusive secret to give away – at a gig, no less – but it’s a matter-of-factness that sums up the 30-year-old, who’s simply too pure of heart to keep anything from us. God Save Animals, his aforementioned record released in October was born from this place; a sublime, near-biblical offering that reads like a confessional as it paces between stripped-back moments with the singer’s most experimental tracks to date.

After a moment’s tuning of instruments and auto-fine-tuning, Alex G’s first two tracks tugged at both ends of these aspects, with the sinister, gravelly-sung ‘S.D.O.S’ followed by ‘Runner’, an unconventional feelgood anthem that talks of acceptance. The track’s opening refrain, “I like people who I can open up to / Who don’t judge for what I say, but judge me for what I do”, seemed an apt mood-setter for a room crammed with people brought together by this unlikely star – some of whom had reportedly queued for hours to bag a good spot.

Alex G gig review

There would, of course, be plenty of older tunes for these longstanding fans to soak up, intermingled with those from God Save The Animals. ‘After Ur Gone’, the album opener to 2014’s DSU, was among the first notable throwbacks, its fuzzy grunge somehow showcasing both how far Alex G has come since its release and how much of his charm is about keeping things simple, the track twirling on the same three lines: “After you’re gone / How can we tell them you’re gone? How can we show them you’re gone?”

Alex G was dressed to match for the night, wearing the kind of simple long-sleeve tee you’d sling on after just getting out of bed; its skull-head on the back reflecting some eerie undertones in his music every time he turned round to face his band, who he’d later warmly introduce to us: Tom Kelly on drums, John Heywood on bass, and Sam Acchione on guitar.

The pacing of the track selection was well-considered, with the likes of the tortured noise rock of ‘Brick’ (oddly introduced as a hidden gem ‘Pretend’), the jangly instrumental ‘Horse’ and the heady synths of ‘Blessing’ delivered at a point where some sets can typically lull.

This provided the setup for the more tender tunes of ‘Immunity’ and God Save The Animals opener ‘After All’, via ‘Early Morning Waiting’, which saw Alex take to the keys and remind us all – as if it needed reminding, that is – of his multifaceted musical talents.

All in all, this created a set that was neither too sickly sweet nor too bleak and bitter. On a purely technical level, too, the effect-heavy vocals that feature on many God Save The Animals tunes – be it a childlike squeal (‘Immunity’) or low-pitched huskiness (‘Blessing’) – were implemented well in the live setting.

And so we eventually arrived at the encore, just as Alex had said. Only, it wasn’t so much an encore as it was an extended set altogether, adding seven more tracks to the 26-track-total setlist. The first of these, ‘Gnaw’, seemed to come by audience request – a display of how adept Alex and co. are in plucking up a tune from the artist’s nine-album-deep catalogue (even if this one’s a fan favourite).

‘Harvey’, ‘Snot’, ‘Mis’ and ‘Bobby’ would follow, each of their simple, one-word titles belying their beguiling qualities. Elliott Smith comparisons are often made to Alex G, and it was during this period of songs that made it hard not to hear why: beneath a distressed torment under them lies a hopeful reach for something better. It’s sad and rather beautiful.

Brooklyn duo Momma, the night’s warm-up act, who were on tour with Wet Leg last year, were brought out for the final tune ‘Brite Boy’ – another gently swaying, happy-sad cut from its creator’s prolific output. (30 years old and nine studio albums are worth acknowledging).

Alex G

Photo: Chris Maggio

Were you to put together a word cloud of Alex’s crowd interactions on the night, ‘Thank you’ would easily dominate the page, it being his go-to during the few occasions he did speak.

Often seen as mysterious by his lack of braggadocious chat, in reality, he simply lets his music do the talking. And for that, Alex, no – we thank you.


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