Rex Orange County live in London: infectious joy wins out at star’s biggest show yet

Gunnersbury Park, London, August 13: he may have cancelled his tour after this date due to "personal circumstances", but the star is all smiles

As the sun sets over west London, Acton’s Gunnersbury Park is being transformed into a bubble of positive energy. Sure, the heavens might have their pretty streaks of pink and orange glow urging you to look up in awe, but down below, something much more enthralling is happening: the infectious joy of a Rex Orange County show washing over 20,000 people, backed by neon thumbs up signs and, later, a wave of brightly coloured inflatable balls bouncing over their heads.

Tonight (August 13) is the British singer-songwriter’s final live appearance of the year, his tour after this gig cancelled due to “personal circumstances”. It’s a bittersweet moment – his biggest concert to date but an early end to the live celebrations around his chart-topping 2022 album ‘Who Cares?’. Yet, on stage, he seems only concerned with having fun. “You’re gonna have to drag me off this stage tonight, I’m not gonna lie,” he tells the crowd barely minutes into the set, eliciting a huge roar of approval.

To make this last gig (for now) special, Rex has invited The Brass Rascals to join him tonight, the band’s brass backing adding even more cheer to the exuberant set. Midway through, they also help provide a beautiful first – giving a gorgeous twist to the 2017 track ‘Happiness’. Instead of the melancholy piano flourishes and gliding strings of the recorded version, this version finds the star backed by just a single saxophone. It’s just as emotional as the original, but also feels thrillingly fresh.

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A feel-good spirit is at the heart of tonight’s performance, even when Rex is playing “another really sad song”, as he introduces ‘Untitled’. “I’m no good at this, I’m fucking up,” he sings on the jaunty ‘7AM’, but throughout the song, the crowd members – who boast Stormzy as one of their number – sway their arms back and forth and clap their hands in unison as if they’re encouraging him to keep going through his insecurities and anxieties. Later, before an amped-up, anthemic ‘Best Friend’, he shares a little, cheeky instruction: “Take your anger out right now through singing this song rather than just screaming at me.” What follows is a mass, raucous singalong, the crowd bouncing as one as the night settles above.

Rex Orange County
Rex Orange County CREDIT: Neil Hall

“Thank you for giving me one of the best shows I’ve ever done in my life,” Rex beams before ‘Loving Is Easy’. Behind him, the name of his latest album looms large. The audience in front of him offers an unwavering answer throughout the gig – a lot of people, very, very much.

Rex Orange County played: 

‘Making Time’
‘Keep It Up’
‘Amazing’
‘One In A Million’
‘Television/So Far So Good’
‘10/10’
‘7AM’
‘The Shade’
‘Threat’
‘Happiness’
‘Untitled’
‘Corduroy Dreams’
‘If You Want It’
‘Never Enough’
‘Sunflower’
‘Best Friend’
‘Loving Is Easy’
‘Who Cares?’
‘Pluto Projector’

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