Rex Orange County: A live review

By Jenna Ethridge
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Rex Orange County performing at The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco.

On Nov. 15, Rex Orange County commenced his two-night, sold-out residency at The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco. Despite what his alias may allude to, Alex O’Connor is a 20 year old musician from England who is taking the world by storm. His debut album, “Bcos U Will Never B Free,” was self-released on Soundcloud in 2015 before being picked up by a record label and re-released in 2016. The following year, “Apricot Princess,” was released, as well as several singles that went viral including “Best Friend,” “Sunflower” and “Loving is Easy.”

After catching the attention of Tyler, The Creator, O’Connor contributed vocals to songs such as “Boredom” and “Foreword” on last year’s Grammy-nominated Best Rap Album, “Flower Boy.” O’Connor has also performed live with Tyler, The Creator, as well as at several of his Camp Flog Gnaw music festivals.

Opening for O’Connor was Radiant Children, a soulful R&B trio, also from England. Their EP, “TRYIN’,” was released on Aug. 24 of this year and features popular songs such as “Poke Bowl” and the EP’s title track. Lead singer, Fabienne Holloway, had an infectious energy that quickly impressed and resonated with the audience, as she paraded the stage and encouraged everyone to dance with her.

Holloway was joined by fellow bandmates, Tyler Acord and Marco Bernardis, as well as an array of live instruments including drums, keys, guitar and saxophone. Similar to O’Connor, Radiant Children have created a sound that is nearly impossible to categorize, as it combines elements of soul, jazz, hip-hop and pop. After two nights in San Diego and two nights in San Francisco supporting Rex Orange County on tour, the band had their first headlining show in Los Angeles on Nov. 19 at The Moroccan Lounge.

Radiant Children performing at The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco.

Rex Orange County was next to take the stage, as fans who had been waiting in line since 11 a.m. despite San Francisco’s “unhealthy” air quality, showed their excitement. One fan in particular participated in the popular act of bringing sunflowers for O’Connor, which she successfully gifted to him several songs into the show. O’Connor opened with the title track from his most recent album, “Apricot Princess” – a nickname reserved for his girlfriend of three years, Thea, whom shared the stage during his performance of “Sycamore Girl.”

The last time O’Connor was in San Francisco was on Aug. 10 at Golden Gate Park for the eleventh annual Outside Lands music festival, though after an unfortunate breakdown of his band’s tour bus, O’Connor was forced to perform solo. When asked if anyone in attendance had also seen him at the festival, hundreds of hands were raised, as the audience cheered affirmatively.

O’Connor frequently encouraged the crowd to sing along with him, resulting in his voice being drowned out at times due to the overwhelming volume of the audience. During “Best Friend,” O’Connor asked the audience to help him sing the chorus and gave them three attempts to achieve a scoring of 10/10, which they did on the final attempt. Throughout the night, O’Connor was often seen staring out into the crowd in what appeared to be complete disbelief – despite only starting his musical career a few years ago, O’Connor has achieved more by the age of 20 than most people do in their entire lives.

The concert concluded with a much anticipated finale of “Loving is Easy,” during which smoke cannons on either side of the stage left the crowd in awe and large amounts of gold confetti were distributed across the venue. After his second and final night at The Regency Ballroom on Nov. 16, O’Connor took to Instagram to thank his fans, stating, “thanks to everyone that came to the final shows of the year. see you all next time……… next time new songs.”

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