Alex G live at Primavera Sound: an indie icon becoming a proper rock star, whether he likes it or not

The Philadelphia songwriter is getting the global recognition he deserves – even if he seems like he can't be arsed

It’s just turned 7pm in Barcelona, and the evening sun beats down belligerently in its attempts to clear the early puddles of beer freshly waterlogging the astroturf in front of Primavera Sound’s main stage (it’s possibly overspill from Black Country, New Road’s set-closing champagne a few minutes earlier, to celebrate drummer Charlie Wayne’s birthday. Happy birthday, Charlie). Slowly rewiring our circuits to adjust to European festival jetlag – it’s afternoon somewhere – Alex G is a meek figure to open the weekend’s entertainment for those of us not making the 20-yard trip to our right from the adjoining stage. 

Faces are reddening, smiles aren’t yet hardened by 12 hours on a concrete floor, and metalheads Ghost have supplied paper skeleton masks to anyone who’ll scan a QR code. It’s a building, motley crowd made of equal parts Halloween face paint and artisan Everpress shirts, gathering in front of the blue-skied oasis of Alex G’s God Save The Animals album artwork backdrop. His setlist is heavily skewed to his latest album, too, from the opening chimes of ‘S.D.O.S.’ and ‘Runner’ to the closing double of ‘Miracles’ and ‘Forgive’. Animated parrots nod slowly above him, obscured now and again by a smoke machine intent to outdo itself at every puff.


G(iannascoli) has had fun with his shows of late: at the end of an intimate Rough Trade East instore set he took requests from his over-adoring crowd only to play anything but those songs, and weeks before, rumour has it that his highlight of an inexplicably booked Lexington gig (a tiny venue for an artist of his profile) was the post-show McDonald’s (the King’s Cross branch is a reliable one). It’s almost like, having realised his position on the precipice of indie-alt greatness, he’s savouring every final moment in some-sort-of shadow before the inevitable comes. 

Sure enough, there’s nothing in the early hours of Primavera that will convert anyone to the Church of G who’s not already in the congregation. Even a surprise appearance from Caroline Polachek and Maya Laner on backing vocals for ‘Mission’ feels like an inside joke, as the pair pluck iPhones from two fluffy handbags and film the few minutes they share on stage together. But the entirety of the set is joyous, and played to a crowd who knows their role perfectly: they join for the hushed choruses of ‘Ain’t It Easy’, lifting Giannascoli’s whispers above any ambient chatter; they fill in the higher vocalised autotune that Giannascoli shuns during a heavier take of ‘After All’; and when Sam Accione’s guitar contorts through a gloriously jammed version of ‘Judge’ – one of a few lengthened cuts from Rocket – the melody was perfectly wailed back to him.

Barring a list of acknowledgements, Giannascoli only breaks from song once to look out over the port of Barcelona and comment, off-hand, “You can see the ocean from up here. Beautiful.” It’s unclear whether or not he’s noticed the substantial crowd gazing up at him, or whether he knows that this is a stage he suits. Turning to Tom Kelly on the drums once again to jam the next track, though, this is a rock show. And there’s little turning away from Alex G’s ascent from oddball introvert to self-assured rockstar.

Photography by Clara Orozco