Live Review: (Sandy) Alex G, Brightness

2 February 2018 | 11:43 am | Joel Lohman

"He bleats his lyrics through clenched teeth as if he's still trying not to disturb his college roommates."

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There are few things less hip in music circles right now than playing acoustic guitar in an indie-rock band. So you have to hand it to Alex Knight of Brightness for being so out of step with the cultural zeitgeist and sincerely singing the music he loves. His set is a totally enjoyable collection of warm and congenial indie-rock, deeply reverential of the likes of Grandaddy.

On (Sandy) Alex G's stage there is zero pretence, just four super-chill dudes jamming and smiling at each other. Although the man himself is clearly the star, the whole band is a joy to behold, especially the drummer, who stretches to reach his absurdly high crash cymbal. It's always fun to watch musicians enjoying themselves so much on stage.

Alex G and band amble adroitly from jazz to punk to country to metal to folk. This musical omnivore could lead a really great, versatile jam band if not for his preternatural gift for melody, evinced on songs like Forever and Animals. To introduce Kicker, he deadpans, "A lot of people tell me this is the best song ever." We all laugh, but then they start playing its riff with such vigour that we almost wonder whether it is in fact the greatest thing we've ever heard. Songs like Proud and Bug are undercover anthems.

Both within songs and between them, Alex G mashes keys on a keyboard's vocal setting, producing an uncanny, robotic scatting. When he's tuning his guitar he'll hit play on a simple, preset drumbeat. He seems to have a hyperactive musical mind, restlessly filling any silence with sound (which explains how he's made seven albums and a handful of EPs since 2010). He bleats his lyrics through clenched teeth as if he's still trying not to disturb his college roommates.

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Everything about tonight has a pretty casual, tossed-off vibe. Songs like Witch and Poison Root are shambolic and freewheeling. Some of this looseness could be frustrating if the bones of the songs were less substantive, but the fella sure can write a tune! When he finally sits at the keyboard, it's to scream through the chaotic hardcore punk of Brick before taking a hard left into the shimmery light jazz of Guilty and the elegant Sportstar.

After 45 minutes, he asks for song requests, which shepherds in early career highlights like Harvey and Mary, before closing with Change, and the repetition of its refrain, "I don't like how things change". Alex G doesn't seem like someone who's resistant to change, but fingers crossed he never really does.