Alex O’Connor, better known as Rex Orange County, has been traveling the world on his Pony tour and recently stopped at Washington D.C. ‘s The Anthem to celebrate his third album, released in October of 2019. Bringing bedroom pop into the light, the musician’s creations have received wide fame, claiming the attention of die-hard indie listeners as well as modern pop-lovers, developing a name recognizable to many.
To begin with, Rex is an extremely respectable and impressive musician. At just the young age of 21, he has won the loyalty of over eight million monthly listeners on Spotify, headlined in numerous shows around the world, collaborated with Grammy-winning artists such as Tyler the Creator and was even featured on TV shows such as “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
The diversity and fluidity of his musical style show prowess and the lengths of his passion, representing the exploratory fashion of the artist. Rex’s talent lies not only in his instrumentation but also in his role as a lyricist, sharing his darkest, most depressing thoughts with blunt honesty and voluntarily showing vulnerability.
Selling out all 6,000 tickets at the venue, roaring fans welcomed Rex to The Anthem’s stage. Comfortably underdressed in a gray sweatshirt and jeans, he immediately looks like a relatable figure. He stands on an almost cartoon-like set, decorated with cutout clouds, oversized flowers and rounded mountains. This backdrop permeated a lightheartedness and playful flair behind Rex’s pained lyrics.
However, Rex is a solo artist, and this has its cons when it comes to live performances. Throughout the show, it becomes evident that the extravagance of the stage is an effort to make up for the artist’s lack of overdramatized energy as well as the immense empty space accompanying him on either side. Complete with glimmering disco balls, bright lights patterned to emphasize the rhythm of each song, a giant rainbow pony and an explosion of confetti, the stage strayed from the message of the songs. The stage swallowed the artist so he became lost among all the eye-catching components.
Rex’s music is strong enough to stand alone, without the frills of a confetti cannon. The best portion of the performance overall was when a color-shifting curtain fell between Rex and the tail end of the stage, isolating the artist with his guitar. In this moment, he seems to be the most comfortable. The audience gets to see some of the spontaneity of Rex’s creativity as he tweaks a few elements of his songs, touched with extended riffs as he plays with unbelievably low notes. His musical ability fills the room with bright spirits and awestruck gazes.
All in all, Rex Orange County is a talented, innovative artist who makes inspired music, testing the limits of what is currently known and relevant in the music industry. But unfortunately, his extraordinary craftsmanship was swallowed by the stage on his Pony tour. Rex’s skill lies in the production of music rather than the performance of it.