Pulling off a great outdoor summer concert requires energy, good vibes and great weather. Rex Orange County had all three. Alex O’Connor, the 24-year-old behind Rex Orange County, made sure that first and foremost, the show was fun. Meadowbrook Amphitheatre was packed on the last Saturday night in June: the music was so loud I could feel it in my chest, the lights were colorful and the crowd was screaming. The venue was a perfect fit — its atmosphere matched Rex Orange County’s energy so well, it seemed like they were made for one another. The weather was finally cooling off, with vendors selling beers and snacks near the entrance and people sprawled out on blankets on the lawn.
“What’s up, Detroit?” O’Connor yelled into the microphone. The crowd screamed in reply. My friend and I looked at each other, confused — we were in Rochester Hills. Who had lied to him? Was I, an out-of-stater, woefully unaware that “Detroit” also encompassed a suburb 30 miles outside of the city? He referred to us as “Detroit” at least a dozen times throughout the rest of the show, and the audience cheered nonetheless. At least his heart was in the right place.
The crowd went beyond forgiving his geographical slights — any slight movement or quirky facial expression also earned him raucous cheers. And I’ll admit, by the end, O’Connor had me right there with the rest of the audience, “aww”-ing as he bopped up and down and hyped up the crowd.
Rex Orange County started his performance with songs from his new album, Who Cares?, also the name of the tour. The words were noticeably emblazoned behind him onstage, adding a meta-layer to the whole performance — daring us to find deeper meaning in what he was doing as he was doing it. The stage setup was definitely a strength of the show, with various cartoon cutout thumbs — reminiscent of the album’s merchandising and music videos — lighting up in time to the music. Later on, the thumbs were replaced by brightly-colored flowers with disco-ball centers that threw sparkles of light over the crowd. The band was prominently displayed, offering a great view of his talented flutist, saxophonist and trumpeter, among others.
“MAKING TIME” and “KEEP IT UP” started off the set list strong. O’Connor moved through several more new songs, which were just as indistinguishable from one another as they were when I first listened to the album. That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable — Rex Orange County’s vibes were incredible as he crooned through upbeat tunes like “AMAZING” and “7AM.” He was a surprisingly engaging performer — based on his music, I expected him to be more low-key. Instead, he jumped up and down, danced in a goofy yet endearing way that reminded me of Harry Styles, hyped up the crowd and even did a few heavy-metal screams, which left me duly impressed.
But Rex Orange County had a softer side, too. Midway through his set, O’Connor closed the curtains stepped out in front of them, alone and without his band. At the keyboard or with his guitar, he shone with performances of sweet, intimate songs like “Corduroy Dreams.” The mellowness didn’t last long, though — soon enough the curtains were up and his band was revealed to get the crowd going again with “OPEN A WINDOW.”
Of course, no Rex Orange County concert could be complete without a rousing performance of his greatest hits, bringing us back to 2017 with “Sunflower,” “Loving Is Easy” and “Best Friend.” Despite the fact that Rex Orange County has probably performed these songs a million times, the energy didn’t let up — beach balls and confetti were released into the crowd for a resounding finish. With an encore of “Pluto Projector,” O’Connor finished out the night strong, and I was left smiling along with the thumbs onstage.
Senior Arts Editor Emilia Ferrante can be reached at email@example.com.