There was a sense of celebration throughout Alex G’s headline performance at London’s Roundhouse on Thursday night – and justifiably so, given this was among the largest headline shows he and his band have ever played, and certainly the biggest outside the USA. Touring in support of his best album to date, God Save The Animals, Giannascoli was on a victory lap, playing to a horde of new fans – as well as a host of long-term die hards, who were duly rewarded with plenty of deep cuts thrown into the set.
Giannascoli swirled that bubbling sense of excitement with the opening “S.D.O.S.”, pounding away at a piano and singing through vocoder, then grasped the moment and turned the energy up to boiling point by dropping in “Runner” as the second track. The jubilant, buoyant crowd lapped it up, singing along to the cloying, addictive hooks (“Yes I have done a couple bad thi-hings”) with full gusto.
It was to be a marathon night, with the band playing 26 tracks in total, including all 12 from Animals, and the crowd hung in there all the way, with many probably losing their voices in the process. For the first half of the set there was minimal stage patter, the band bumping through the jams without missing a beat, keeping the momentum up and ensuring they had time to get through all they wanted to play.
Early highlight “No Bitterness” was a showcase for the subtly technical drumming that Giannascoli inserts into his songs, while the open-hearted admission “my teacher is a child with a big smile” was reflected back in a few thousand beaming faces. “Mission” had everyone lurch-swaying along with its stately beat and confessional tone, empathetic listeners pouring their own meaning into the elegiac bottom line “Hey, look in the mirror / Ain’t gonna right your wrong / With a stupid love song.” A lackadaisical jam off the back of that inward-looking track saw a few attention spans drift into conversations, but these were quickly quashed as Giannascoli dropped the explosive riff of “Kicker” into proceedings, precipitating an outbreak of headbanging.
Such was the comfort and confidence of Alex G on stage that he lied to the audience by announcing they would play old school fan favourite “Pretend”, resulting in a swarm of shrieks, only to launch instead into “Brick” – one of his weirdest and most abrasive songs of his Domino output – followed by the chopped-up oddity “Horse”, both impressively recreated in the live setting.
Fans were rewarded for their patience through this more experimental segment by a string of hits from Animals. Giannascoli prowled menacingly around while huskily whisper-shouting “Blessing” then flipped the script entirely to create a shimmering soft-rock vista for the glorious “Immunity”. This brought us all into a more intimate space, and he exploited this to the maximum with a gorgeous run of “Early Morning Waiting”, “After All” and “Cross The Sea”.
Just to stir up the energy again, he broke up the Animals portion with the entry of “Gretel”, everyone screaming along “nobody’s gonna push me off track”. Alex G and his band then masterfully ended the main set with the two closing tracks from Animals, “Miracles” and “Forgive”, keeping us hanging on his every honest word about considering parenthood and trying to be less hard on yourself.
Most artists return for an encore as a perfunctory thing, to play one or two more songs, but Giannascoli and co seemed to want to eke it out for as long as possible, playing a further seven songs including a few requests from the crowd. This saw them dig deep into the back catalogue to play the likes of “Gnaw” (resulting in another huge cheer from the hardcore), “Harvey” (pogoing moshers aplenty), “Snot” and “Mis”. It was then impossible to ignore the audible chants for “Bobby”, to which the band duly acceded, yielding a gang singalong to the heartsick hook “I’d leave him for you / If you want me to.” Still not satisfied, Giannascoli again returned to his back catalogue for the beloved “Forever” before inviting support act Momma back on stage to duet on the closing “Brite Boy”.
Of course, Alex G has a huge back catalogue these days, so there will always be those songs that you didn’t get to hear – but as we left the Roundhouse, not a peep of discontent was heard. A general sense of satisfaction and wholesomeness was the overriding mood as the several thousand sated fans made their way out into the London night.
S.D.O.S. Runner Hope No Bitterness After Ur Gone Judge Ain’t It Easy Mission Kicker Brick Horse Blessing Immunity Early Morning Waiting After All Cross The Sea Gretel Miracles Forgive — Gnaw Harvey Snot Mis Bobby Forever Brite Boy