By James Murphy
British multi-instrumentalist Rex Orange County isn’t easily squeezed into a genre category: his childhood influences ranged from the campness of Queen and ABBA to the punk pop of Green Day and Weezer. He was a rare drumming student at BRIT School during his formative years, which meant his skin smacking skills were in demand in the varying projects of his guitar and keyboard studying classmates. He rose to fame by collaborating with hip-hop king Tyler the Creator, which led to almost immediate collab with 70s Americana legend Randy Newman. In his first visit to Australia for four years, with the pandemic and personal struggles behind him, ROC rocked Adelaide.
Seated behind a pair of keyboards in front of a curtain emblazoned with a cartoon orange sun and crescent blue moon, Rex Orange County kicked off is set with, of course, Rex (Intro). The curtains opened, like clouds parting, to reveal a band featuring saxophone, bass, drums, guitar and keys; all instruments ROC plays. In a four album spanning 90 minute set, Rex alternated between keys and guitar, but mostly was an Energizer Bunny, jogging and dancing the length of the expansive stage.
After systematically opening with songs in chronological order: “Television/SO FAR SO GOOD”, “Uno”, “Untitled” and “IF YOU WANT IT”, Rex jumped across his back catalogue of ear worm odes to love, loss and self-loathing. He barely stopped moving, apart from when he sat on his haunches in a spoken word flow on 4 Seasons. At the show’s halfway point, the curtains closed again, as he dialled back the energy and cranked up the emotion on the wedding anthem, “Happiness”, a track that is miraculously sentimental without ever being cheesy.
Biggest hits “Loving is Easy”, “Pluto Projector” and “Best Friend” and confetti canons closed out a night that was buoyant from the outset as Rex’s bedroom pop contemporary, 2022 JJJ Unearthed nominee Grentperez led his three piece through his collection of tunes that the early crowd already knew word-for-word, such as “Ego”, “Cherry Wine” and “Clementine”. For an artist on the rise, Grent already possesses Ben Folds-level audience engagement techniques.