In the midst of his 2021 tour, Alex G stopped by Madison to play at the Majestic Theater. It was another cozy, intimate show at the Majestic with people in jackets pressed together and the heat turned up on a chilly November night.
Rapper Exum opened for Alex G, and his performance was a great precursor to the show Alex G would put on afterwards. Initially, it would strike one as an interesting choice by Alex G to tour with Exum, whose alternative rap sounds nothing like Alex G’s lo-fi indie. But the two combined to put on a diverse and creative performance.
Exum got the party going, and he fully embraced being the opening act. As the former NFL defensive back put it, he has to make the audience buy “a second ticket.” Exum performed alone on stage, but his incredibly engaging performance radiated the energy even a full band can sometimes fail to produce.
During one of his opening songs, Exum climbed onto a platform near the stage and was immediately ushered off by a stage technician. This got the crowd cheering at the rapper and booing at the Majestic employee, raising the energy level. Exum then began to channel his inner David Byrne from “Stop Making Sense,” traversing all parts of the stage and sprinting in place. This raised the energy level even higher.
For the climax of his show, Exum descended into the crowd and cleared a circle from which to perform. He serenaded several audience members to one of his slower songs, and at one point asked the crowd to get low to the ground, most of whom obliged. Exum knew as the opening act he had to be memorable, and he delivered. When he announced he’s in consideration for being an opening act on Kanye West’s Donda tour, it was impressive but not surprising.
Alex G and his drummer, bassist and guitarist took the stage shortly after. He opened with a powerful version of “Gretel” off his most recent record, House of Sugar. For this song and most others on the set list, Alex and his band amped-up the intensity for the live performance. Initially, I was curious as to how Alex G would perform his soft, quieter songs, but it quickly became evident that he had no interest in holding back.
Alex G has been in the game a long time, so it’s no surprise that his performance was extremely tight and his band was locked in. However, they achieved this while still playing with an unexpected amount of power. On so many Alex G recordings, his voice is strained and almost distant. At the Majestic, he screamed into the microphone with reckless abandon.
Despite his loud and technically-sound performance, Alex G looked almost disinterested for the first half of his set. He spoke only a few words to the audience, and just had an unfriendly demeanor about him on stage. About midway through the show, however, something changed. He started interacting with the audience more, responding to callouts from the crowd and chatting with his band during and after songs. He even brought a mesmerized young woman from the audience on stage to sing along with him. It was a good performance up to this point, but a more social Alex G made it a great one.
The encore ended up being almost as long as the initial set, and by that time Alex and his band were having a blast. They were clearly deciding which song to play next in the moment, which made the performance more exciting. Alex even took a suggestion from the crowd, playing “Brite Boy” to the delight of the fan that shouted it.
Watching Alex G cheer up as his show went on was an interesting musical experience. It was a good reminder that artists, like the rest of us, fluctuate emotionally. It was fun to witness Alex’s energy level build and build, encouraged by the Majestic crowd and the joy of performance. Alex G has been releasing music since high school, and likely isn’t done anytime soon. Watching him find him his passion on a random, dreary night in Madison was inspiring.
Final Grade: B+