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Review: Rex Orange County at Forest Hills Stadium

The English singer/songwriter brings his "Who Cares?" tour to Queens.

Review: Rex Orange County at Forest Hills Stadium I've been a huuuge fan of Rex Orange County ever since I discovered the music video to his breezy gem of a song "Loving is Easy" on YouTube in 2017. I then found his debut album Apricot Princess, which became my favorite album of the year. Rex's blend of hip-hop, jazz, chamber pop, and soul brings to mind everyone from Burt Bacharach to Stevie Wonder to Elton John to Brian Wilson to Frank Ocean to The Format, and I could go on and on. The fact that beneath these carefree, incredibly palatable tracks lies a deep thinking, soul-searching individual is just the cherry--er, apricot?--on top.

Rex Orange County's Saturday evening show at Forest Hills Stadium was the perfect kick-off to what will be, for me, a summer of concerts. The day, which had been a wet one, decided to hold off any rain for almost the entirety of Rex's set, and I remembered why FHS is perhaps my favorite venue in NYC. It's a clean, roomy, well-organized outdoor space that includes food vendors, craft beer and wine, and several merch stands. It's always a pleasure seeing a show here, and I already have plans to go back for more within the next few months. (Stay tuned for my thoughts on Phoebe Bridgers, Fleet Foxes, and Death Cab for Cutie.)

Rex opens the show with the brief "Making Time," from his new album Who Cares?, and then launches into "Amazing," a song which includes an intro so beautiful and string-saturated that it almost brings a choke to my throat. These lyrics provide a crash course in ROC subject matter: "Search the definition of shame/I'm sure you'll see my face/Who's gonna save me now?/I hope it's you my babe." Rex is a soul searcher to an almost obsessive degree, and throughout his writing, he continuously loops back to the hope of a savior, usually in the form of a romantic partner who will finally understand him.

This concept is expanded upon in the following number "Keep It Up," which opens with the admission that "Every time I open my mouth/I have regrets in my mind every time/And no one seems to figure me out." After this comes "One in a Million," and then one of my favorites, "Television/So Far So Good," from Apricot Princess. This song is a musically multitiered three-act play, and one which would not be out of place in a Rex Orange County pop opera, much like Rufus Wainwright's "14th Street" or even Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

At this point in the show it has been firmly established that this audience will be loudly singing along to every word of every song, and when the opening lines of "10/10" are heard, the singalong vibes double both in volume and enthusiasm. This is another favorite of mine, with memorable, quotable lyrics such as "Give myself a little credit/Since I dealt with all the pain/Yeah, I turned superhero/I'm comin' in Bruce Wayne," which are shouted back to Rex at ear-splitting levels by every high school girl behind me.

The group effort continues with "7AM," during which Rex holds the mic to the crowd and implores us to "sing this s." And we do--or they do, as I'm not yet too familiar with this track from Who Cares? Also from this album is the next number, "The Shade," after which Rex sits alone onstage behind his keyboard and plays a pleasant cover of Minnie Ripperton's "Lovin' You," a song which, my friend and I both admit, we know from Vegas Vacation.

The next three are ballads from Apricot Princess: "4 Seasons," "Untitled," and "Happiness," followed by "Always" from 2019's Pony. Then comes the lone offering from debut album Bcos U Will Never B Free, "Corduroy Dreams," a song whose lyric "See I'm a f-ing basket case" I mishear as "See I'm a f-ing masochist," and which I think even Rex would agree could also apply.

Next up are two more from Who Cares?: "Open a Window," a funky, Bacharachian bop that features Tyler, The Creator on the album recording, and "If You Want It."

At this point in the show, Rex starts to ask the audience to up the energy before he begins a number, which seems like a fool's errand as every person is literally screaming themselves hoarse. But the entire crowd tries their hardest, and when, after "Never Enough," he makes this request again, the girls behind me give themselves irreparable vocal damage in their effort to appease him. "Sunflower" comes next, and when he asks for increased audience energy for a FOURTH TIME, my friend turns to me and says, "Everyone knows all the words, what more does he want?" Rex is definitely being unreasonable, as he has every member of this crowd in the palm of his hand, and the pleas for more energy start to get tiresome and, as a result, actually lower the enthusiasm of the audience.

Hit singles "Best Friend" and "Loving is Easy" follow, the latter of which (as I mentioned earlier) was my Rex OC gateway song. It's just a masterpiece. Go listen to it.

Album title track "Who Cares" is the final number, and at this point my friend and I make our way to the doors to avoid the post-encore Rexodus. As we walk across the food court turf and leave the venue, however, the sounds of "Pluto Projector" can be heard throughout the foggy night. This is a lush, cinematic, flawless piece of songwriting, with lyrics that couldn't be more fitting for the end of a lovely show: "I feel at home when I'm around you/And I'll gladly say again/I hope the encore lasts forever/Now there's time for use to spend."

Now it's time for us all to go home, turn on the humidifiers, and put ourselves on vocal rest.

Daniel Nolen is a writer, designer, and performer in New York City. He is the co-host of the BroadwayWorld podcast Broken Records, as well as the weekly live show Cast Offs, every Monday at 8pm at Alan Cumming's Club Cumming.

Photo by Alexandra Waespi



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