21 October, 2015

[GIG REVIEW] Alex G @ 100 Club 20th October 2015

It seems bad to start a live review by referencing an artist that has nothing to do with band playing, but  the first thing that strikes you as you walk into the 100 club is the similarity in the demographic of the audience, and the overall feeling of excited adulation, to a Mac Demarco show. But whereas Mac arouses this reaction through sheer force of personality, Alex Giannascoli, AKA Alex G, does it through the sheer power of his song-writing. One of the most prolific artists of the past couple of years, Alex has made a name for himself by producing cool, laid-back yet truly emotional songs, and indirectly become a ‘generation X’ pin-up for a swathe of disenchanted indie kids.

Tonight’s set draws from the highlights of his 4 albums, naturally leaning heavily on recently released ‘Beach Music’ and break-out LP ‘DSU’. Taking to the stage in a low-key manner, Giannascoli and band faff around setting up before launching into the one-two punch of ‘Beach Music’ singles ‘Bug’ and ‘Kicker’. Live, he may be shorn of the auxiliary effects and instruments that permeate his recorded work, i.e. the haunting piano and washy organ are missing, equally so the daft/genius vocal effects he relies on are not replicated, but stripped back to a simple guitar-guitar-bass-drums set-up the quality of his tunes still shines through.

This is not a photo from the night, just an example of what it could've looked like, my photographer had to bail last minute...

The first indication of the uber-enthusiastic nature of the 200 or so strong crowd (which leads Alex to remark "oh my god, you guys are soooo receptive…" in a quasi-stoner drawl at one stage) is when the frontman turns to his band and mouths "Black?". This subtle hint is enough for the super-fans, who seem to outnumber casual watchers at least 3 to 1, to know he is about to launch into DSU highlight ‘Black Hair’.

An intense performance of sultry ‘Beach Music’ track ‘Salt’ soon follows. On record this is a bit of a 'meh' track for me to be honest, but live it makes a lot more sense, and the sinister moment when the crowd slowly sings ‘Don’t. Make. Me. Hurt. You.’ back at G is a weirdly dark communal moment. A similarly transcendental occasion is reserved for ‘Trick’ tune ‘Forever’- the audience humming the lead guitar line so loudly you can hardly hear it, before descending into one of the most up-beat and poppy choruses in his canon.

The problem with releasing around 50 tracks in such a short period of time is that it gives fans so many tracks to choose from when deciding their own favourite; contending with members of the crowd making a case for ‘their songs’ Alex announces "well, we’ve got a setlist so we’ll play through that ‘cos we worked it out, but then we’ll do an encore and you can shout stuff you want to hear", which obviously gets a great response.

But as he said, there’s the business of the main set to conclude. DSU songs ‘Sorry’, ‘Icehead’, ‘Boy’ and 'Soaker' all go down really well, and so does epic (as far as Alex G does epic) ‘Beach Music’ closer ‘Snot’. The last song of the set is ‘Trick’ opener ‘Memory’, a low-key yet powerful ending. But this is not really the ending, as Giannascoli makes true on his promise of returning for an encore.

Fielding manic yells from the crowd, the band take a moment to collect themselves before performing three rarity tracks then launching into the crowd-pleasing trio of ‘Harvey’, ‘Animals’ and the moving ‘Change’, whose painfully beautiful repeated outro refrain of ‘I don’t like how things change’ rolls wonderfully over the vacant space left by the absence of bass and drums. As the track finishes, it seems an apt closing to an electrifying show, as the solemn moment this track provides captivates the audience for a second…. Then the drummer unexpectedly pies Alex with a plate of creamy pudding, inciting playful cheers from the crowd. And they’re not letting him leave the stage just yet, insisting on a second encore to which the band duly agrees, performing a rousing and extended version of ‘DSU’ opener ‘After Ur Gone’.

The show really is now over, one hour and twenty minutes in which the standard never drops for a second. Alex G truly wins over an audience so enthralled to him that there was no real need to even win them over in the first place. Songs, stage-presence and a real connection to his fans- Alex G is a complete package, and on the basis of this show will surely build on his recent signing to Domino and establish himself further as one of the most important indie characters out there.