(Sandy) Alex G proved why he’s one of the greatest modern songwriters on stage at the Hare & Hounds, Music Editor Kieran Read writes
The first time I saw (Sandy) Alex G perform live was at last year’s Lovebox Festival. He was hidden on stage, nestled to the side by a large wall of speakers and equipment and a giant spinning disco-ball, playing guitar for Frank Ocean’s headline performance. I spotted him about mid-set, just as Spike Jonze projected him up upon the screens, and felt a happiness knowing that the pair knew of each other. Ocean is one to collaborate with peers of equal talent (Rostam Batmanglij, Jonny Greenwood, James Blake), though the connection between Alex G and Frank feels as if it runs far deeper. They are both extremely eclectic and experimental artists who find their greatest solace in gentle melodies, both beyond-their-years storytellers who still speak in languages of youth and love; their connections, when thought about, are pretty unquestionable.
Seeing Alex G take centre stage this time around was an absolute delight. Entering the stage to Robbie Williams’ ‘Let Me Entertain You’, Alex would later admit he asked around for a cheesy song that was distinctly British so that everyone in the audience was in on the joke. Halfway through, Alex would apologise for playing, later saying he was trying to accommodate those who weren’t enjoying the set. Unlike Frank Ocean, a figure of constant illustriousness and cool distance, Alex’s ability to captivate came in the form of warmth and openness. Such tongue-in-cheek charm framed the performance as a personal and unique experience, something I hadn’t felt from a live show in a long time.
The set consisted of a generous handful of all of his prior material, gentler numbers such as ‘Forever’ and ‘Proud’ opening the show like a boat being slowly pushed into water. None of the emotional resonance of the records are lost live, if anything bolstered. Though many of these tracks run around or under the two-minute-mark, each fragment felt resonant and emotionally potent, a true show of craftsmanship. The set would ever so gradually grow in intensity throughout, occasionally dipping into pure, unbridled noise with numbers like ‘Brick’. I have to credit the sequencing of tracks Alex put together here, each being a natural step from the last and ultimately creating an immersive journey of its own.
As if Alex’s loving accommodation to the crowd needed reinforcing, the final third of the performance consisted solely of crowd requests. What ensued was a barrage of shouts, ranging from obscure album cuts to the obvious hits, all of which he seemed to embrace happily. Tackling a range of his bigger numbers, including ‘Harvey’, ‘Mary’ and the concluding 1-2-3 punch of ‘People’, ‘Mis’ and ‘Brite Boy’, this encore achieved the impossible in making one of our generation’s most talented songwriters feel as if he were a wedding singer or a close friend noodling away on an acoustic guitar. He seemingly thrives upon this, upon the human experience, seen weaved beautifully throughout his songs. Because of this, seeing the man perform at the Hare & Hounds felt like a privilege. Whether he’s playing backup to global superstars or captivating small pub rooms for a few hours, (Sandy) Alex G remains a hushed force of musical nature that absolutely deserves to be experienced.