After two rousing performances from support acts Porridge Radio and Sorry, the crowd in Islington Assembly Hall hustles and bustles around the gorgeous and esteemed venue preparing for the one we’ve all been waiting for - Alex Giannascoli aka (Sandy) Alex G. All seems normal until the lights suddenly go down in time with the buzzing bass intro of Robbie Williams’ ‘Rock DJ’. Confused but dancing all the same, we boogie on until Alex G himself enters “I’ve heard that song is huge over here”.
The set dives straight into Giannascoli’s back catalogue with 2010’s ‘Remember’ swerving straight into ‘Forever’, a fan favourite from his 2015 album Trick. The band quickly moves on to ‘Proud’ and ‘Bobby’ from new album Rocket which sees the crowd immediately uproar in movement and excitement that some would not immediately correlate with the down-tempo country-influenced tracks. Although it’s seemingly understandable, Giannascoli has seen a dramatic leap in fan base (as well as venue) size since signing to Domino Records and releasing his last two albums Beach Music and the aforementioned Rocket.
One of the evening’s standout moments comes in the form of a seemingly impromptu jam session which makes the people in the room new to Giannascoli’s music step back in shock and awe. Although he may come off as a quiet oddball indie kid from the outside, (Sandy) Alex G is so much more than that. Starting with Rocket opener ‘Poison Root’, the track’s subtle distortion growing more cacophonous and resounding into ‘Brick’ - the loudest and most aggressive track in Sandy’s entire discography. Kids in the middle that were previously gently jumping and smiling are now diving into each other at full force, shoulders and elbows at the ready. We then get to witness the luscious transition into ‘Sportstar’ (a highlight on Rocket) for which the angry ‘moshers’ suddenly stop and stare in order to appreciate this angelic tune. It’s a fitting end to this typically unconventional part of the set, as Giannascoli sweetly and repeatedly sings “I play how I wanna play, I say what I wanna say”.
The encore begins without a flicker of hesitation or even the standard “walk off-walk on” parade as Alex simply smiles and ask for song requests from the baying crowd. Whether the venue got their timings wrong or the band was misinformed, there seems to be a lot more time than expected for requests, much to our pleasure, as Alex G has told us it’s their ‘last song’ at least 3 times now. He manages to pick out the delights of ‘After Ur Gone’, ‘Brite Boy’, ‘Icehead’ and ‘Animals’ from what to me simply sounds like an indiscernible onslaught of yelps of shrieks. The final song does come around eventually in the form of ‘Change’ – the track I’ve been shouting for since this charade began. It’s a beautifully gentle wind-down to what has been an incredibly idiosyncratic evening for all.