Rex Orange County’s playing London, and the atmosphere is reaching fever-pitch. Not inside the venue, mind. Outside, the queue for entry to Village Underground snakes all the way around the block – as an already formidable fanbase prepares for London-born musician Alex O’Connor’s biggest headline show to date.
And there’s good reason for it, too. In case you weren’t aware, the 19-year-old is a talent to be in awe of. Last year he released his debut collection of songs, ‘bcos u will never be free’ and followed it up with ‘Apricot Princess’ – a stunning collection of jazzy, piano ballads and intimate love songs.
By the time the show kicks off, the sold-out Village Underground are all packed in and Rex ready for his moment in the spotlight. Speaking to NME earlier this week, Rex said that he doesn’t feel nerves, but more excitement – and it’s clear from the off. The recent ‘Apricot Princess’ kicks things off with Rex at the piano, as he brings a bit of funky boogie-woogie to the table, and on ‘Television/So Far So Good’, Rex’s charm leads by example.
Though within the safety of his piano setup is where spends much of the gig, it’s when Rex slows the pace and allows his raw songwriting talent to shine. Like on ‘Untitled’, a wistful and brutally honest ballad (“And I don’t mind if you hate me/’Cause baby if I were you/I would probably hate me too”) or on fan favorite ‘A Song About Being Sad” where Rex allows his vulnerabilities to shine – and where his young audience respond by chanting, crooning and weeping along to each and every word.
There’s fun to be had, though ‘Sunflower’ is a gorgeous, bombastic slice of indie-pop, as is ‘Best Friend’ and set closer ‘Happiness’, which is accompanied by a colourful balloon shower on the crowd.
Going forward, his star potential is unrivalled and by opening himself up as a immensely talented and honest songwriter – Rex could be just what this generation needs.