Sandy (Alex G) (real name, Alex Giannascoli) is only twenty-four yet remarkably he has released his eighth album ‘Rocket’ to critical acclaim this year – his second release through indie imprint, Domino.
‘Rocket’ launches (sorry) the lo-fi sensibilities of Ginascoli’s previous work into a more daring and expansive direction. Sportstar, for instance deploys auto-tune while Brick finds him channelling his inner Death Grips. For the most part though, it’s all Appalachian balladry and capacious instrumentation. But then Alex G always packed loads into small packages.
He arrived in Dublin off the back of this and cameo appearances on Frank Ocean’s ‘Blonde’ and ‘Endless’.
Gianascoli’s gargantuan output has largely served him well. It has allowed him to season an already idiosyncratic sound into something more wholesome and subsequently major-label friendly, all while restoring that signature framework.
It’s interesting witnessing Alex G transported back to his younger self. Some of his earlier work can sound unfledged in comparison to his current output.
During Mary (which was released in early 2014), he lies somewhere between charmingly bashful and aghast at the upfrontness of the lyricism, practically wincing through the line, “Mary is the girl that I wanna fuck/She’s got leather heart and leather gloves”.
Sadly, as is the case throughout a lot of his set, he also seemed vacant, preferring to stare blankly over the crowd or joke with his long-time friend, Sam Achionne (guitar) than make any real engagement with them.
Alex G is well-known to be shy, he’s averse to interviews, he’s coy about song meaning and altogether baffled by the notion of showmanship and selling himself.
This is refreshing in one sense. But not when it results in a lack of rapport with the fans that have flocked to see him. You can’t help but think at times that his music is more suited to a personal home-listening experience rather than a collective live one. This should not necessarily be the case however.
Furthermore the set was rather disjointed. Brick, for instance, though the performance of the song was actually solid enough with Giannascoli using every arc of his frame to drive his aggression into the ground, as if he was imagining that the subject in question themselves had appeared before him.
However, its place in the set felt fractured, removed from any grand scheme or direction for the performance. His decision to open up song requests to the crowd-not once but twice-was questionable too.
On one hand it was a nice touch, especially considering his extensive discography and cult following. But the second time round it felt routine, to the point that he was doing himself a disservice the set now completely devoid of any sense of rhythm.
Comparisons can be drawn between Frank Ocean and Alex G, the two share more in common than it would seem. Both make heartfelt and introspective music. And both clearly suffer with nerves.
Alex G needs to find a way to have faith in his own show and transform his anxiousness into something more engaging.
This review may come off as overly critical. The truth is there were moments of brilliance too; the traditional driving melody of Bobby finding extra comfort in a country which loves its trad; the sinuous strut of Black Hair and the wide-eyed innocence of Sandy.
Not to mention G’s penchant for a refrain; “I don’t like how things change” (Change), “I know that you’re lying” (Brick) and the slightly more verbose yet no less infectious “If I sink…” (Proud).
Musically, all the songs from his new album were good. Some didn’t captivate you as instantly but each made you want to re-explore it. In addition, the kitschy game show-like music that came on while he tuned his guitar added another fun element to it.
Alex G is already shaping up to be one of the best. He just needs to find a way to embrace the nerves and unite himself and the crowd more. He should also not allow the audience to funnel his set. Playing on command made the songs he encored with lose their emotional grab.
He’s got this far on his own intuition. But if he wants to build a reputation beyond a fantastic recording artist, his live show needs to improve.