Written and Photographed by Patrick Pilch
Ahh, Alex G. Perhaps the most revered and reliably consistent “indie rock” songwriter going, it’s safe to say the Philadelphia wunderkind is a voice of a generation. A decade-plus into his career, there’s a little something for everyone; the country-indebted twang of Rocket, the down-tuned malaise of DSU, the zonked chaos of House of Sugar. Giannascoli’s records are as eclectic as they are cohesive, a quality that almost feels unbelievable with a shuffled play of his complete discography. The musician’s base has only dilated with his stylistic range, skyrocketing DIY’s former “best-kept secret” to national television appearances and sold-out tour dates. Night two of Alex G’s Chicago stop on the God Save the Animals tour was testimony to the project’s superb output and the band’s exponential growth.
Thalia Hall was the ideal locale for Alex G to perform the existential, religious-leaning, big-perspective songs from God Save the Animals. What feels like a performer’s venue and a listener’s room, Thalia Hall provided a warm, churchly reverberance for the opening cut “S.D.O.S.” and new fan favorite “Runner.” Alex G ended up performing 12 of the new record’s 13 tracks after walking out to a recording of “Headroom Piano.” It was remarkably satisfying to watch the band pull off studio-spun electronic jams like “No Bitterness” and “Blessing,” but their talent was on full display for the more stripped-down tracks like “Ain’t it Easy” and “Mission.” The band is excellent, though Sam Acchione’s guitar work was a notable highlight on songs like “S.D.O.S.,” “Serpent is Lord,” and “Kicker.” On classic tracks like “Kicker” and “After Ur Gone,” the band comes together marvelously, slugging through the verses of the former and cranking up the BPM on the latter.
One of the most notable differences on the God Save the Animals tour is Giannascoli’s voice. It’s more powerful, more confident, and strays away from the vocal crutches he has used in the past. There are a few vocal performances on the new record that might’ve met with a different approach had they been written several years ago. Now, he purely goes for it. On Animals standout “Miracles,” Giannascoli’s voice was more acrobatic, carrying, and far less resistant while floating in a higher register. He’s finally realizing, it seems, what he had hoped to sound like in the past. And while there’s room for appreciating the songwriter’s modest past vocal efforts, there’s something spectacular in its observable growth.
The setting for Alex G’s pair of Chicago gigs was reminiscent of Rocket’s 2017 release show at the Park Church Co-op in Brooklyn, NY. Thalia Hall provided the perfect reverberating atmosphere to bring out the best of the new record. Both shows spanned the gamut of Alex G’s discography, making the musician one of the few performers playing songs they wrote when they were 17 to sold-out shows. There were some remarkably charming moments, like when Giannascoli began to speak-sing over Rascal Flatts’ “Life is a Highway.” He cherry-picked the lines “There was a distance between you and I / A misunderstanding once / But now we look it in the eye,” mentioning that these were “words to live by.”
Giannascoli is on the family man trajectory. He’s been making songs for a long time, and “Miracles” is a potentially autobiographical hint at the 29-year-old’s shifting priorities. While the show would have been made all the sweeter with a Phillies win, here’s to hoping there’s always next year and many more.
Patrick Pilch is a writer with bylines at Post-Trash, Treblezine, and Ears to Feed. He lives in Chicago, will book your band, and loves to dunk basketballs. You can follow him on Twitter @pratprilch
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