Brit Rex Orange County may be just 20, but he possesses a natural gravitas and songwriting chops beyond his years. Rex Orange County at Observatory North Park by Garrett Seamans

Rex Orange CountyPlaying his first-ever San Diego show to a raucous sold-out crowd at the Observatory North Park, Rex proved that he and his band have major staying power with an ebullient set that drew from all corners of his ever-expanding repertoire.

Wading through a packed crowd largely comprised of teenyboppers and their parents before the band took the stage called back implanted memories of Beatlemania, re-purposed for the information age. Put simply, I felt outed at the ripe old age of 22.

Teenagers who had taken the chance to escape a mundane Monday night to witness a rising star in action were instantly rewarded, as Rex promptly took the stage to perform a solo piano rendition of “Apricot Princess,” the title track off his extremely well-received album from 2017. Cheers from the crowd were contagious and overwhelming, coming in huge spurts he would flash a smile at the adoring mass or encourage folks to sing along.

Although his music may seem startlingly fresh to the uninitiated listener, Rex has come light years in terms of skill and notoriety since self-releasing 2015’s bcos u will never b free to SoundCloud. After notably collaborating with Tyler, the Creator on his 2017 album Flower Boy, Rex’s profile has only risen, presenting a need for him to take on one of the biggest challenges facing any international artist: breaking America.

Thankfully, early indications from this tour point toward a bright future for the young crooner, who commanded a room of hundreds with a self-effacing ease. Flanked by a dreamy backdrop of a halved apricot resting atop pillowy cumulus clouds, he mixed in old cuts and new along with a healthy dose of crowd interaction and spontaneous interplay with his band, a diverse ensemble featuring horns as well as the stylings of a preternaturally gifted young drummer whose innate sense of feel launched Rex’s sad-boy piano ballads into party territory.

For an artist with so much talent and clout, Rex himself carried an air of humility as momentum built throughout the night. His effortless sense of quiet confidence onstage has been developed over several years, however, sharpened to a point when he studied at the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology starting at the age of 16, which boasts such legendary alumni as Adele and Amy Winehouse.

Though the entirety of his hourlong set felt inclusive and all-encompassing in terms of performance, perhaps the most impressive feat shown throughout the show was the way he was able to rework his arrangements on the fly, trusting his band and his talent in the vein of a true performer in contact with a higher sense of their purpose as an artist. Rex’s music reaches people, and he is fully aware of the intimate relationships his fans have formed with his songs.

Songs like “Best Friend” and “Sunflower,” seemingly light and catchy though they may be, paint a full artistic picture with incredible ease, written in a way that lyrically touches upon many universal aspects of depression and caustic relationships and musically satisfies the pleasure centers of the brain instantly. Consequently, they are not sung back by his crowds, they are SCREAMED. By night’s end, I figured many in the room might be going hoarse, but Rex’s inimitable charm took over as his closer “Loving is Easy” left everyone in a daze of happiness as they filed out.

In Rex Orange County’s uniquely personal and fascinating world of poetic imagery and young love, I posit that most anyone can find something to take home with them. With tightly-packaged songs that seduce and sway like post-rap nursery rhymes, Rex is fully loaded with great tunes and charisma, on his way to becoming a true a poster child for the future of millennial expressive arts.

Photos by: Garrett Seamans
Review by: Dennis Moon

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