It took a while for it to finally happen, but Rex Orange County finally landed in Manila, saw us Face To Face, gave us Happiness, and took his Filipino audiences far and beyond to Paradise with his music –– perhaps even as far as Pluto (Projector).
Okay, enough with the song puns. But honestly, Alex O’Connor’s (Rex Orange County’s real name) first time here in the Philippines was an experience that was well worth the wait.
Our dismay at the cancelation of his appearance at the New Frontier Theatre last 2020 is a memory we can now move past, as O’Connor’s performance last October 8 at the Araneta Coliseum more than made up for all the heartache we experienced. Aside from a massive upgrade in terms of venue size, it seems that O’Connor elevated his artistry over the past 3 years — improving upon his already impressive craft to deliver an unforgettable performance in the hearts of his Filipino audience.
That isn’t to say that things came as easy, because as early as 1 PM, a sweeping amount of teens and young adults began to queue in line at the venue. Amidst the scorching heat of a Sunday afternoon and the build-up of traffic in the Cubao area, each of them braved through such hurdles for the chance to secure their desired views of O’Connor’s performance. So by the time the doors officially opened at 5 PM, the chaos and excitement of the crowd rushing to make their way inside caused quite a headache for Araneta’s security team.
But as soon as things calmed down, audiences were welcomed inside the venue — with blue-hued lights and a cheery projection of an animated sun and moon greeting them from the stage. The ambience inside was already bubbling with anticipation, so when opening act Grent Perez came on stage to start his set early (at 7:30 PM), it came as a pleasant surprise that energized the crowd even further.
Perez’s set was a sweet treat for the audience — simultaneously satisfying the devotion of his growing fanbase in the crowd, while also introducing first-time listeners to the extent of his talents. Despite being distanced all the way from the stage, the crowd got to see how Perez was charismatic, relatable, and humorous, with him and his mustard-colored beanie sharing sweet serenades with his hits “Old With You” and “Cherry Wine”.
After hyping the concert-goers up with chants screaming O’Connor’s stage name, the energy of everyone was turned all the way up. So when O’Connor suddenly peeked out from behind the sun-and-moon-draped curtains, everyone lost their minds when he began playing the first notes of “Rex (Intro)” on the piano.
“Manila make some f–king noise. Are you ready?” O’Connor asked the crowd.
In response, the crowd roared with a three-year build-up of cheers and excitement.
Once the intro of “Television/So Far So Good” began to play out, the entire audience howled along to the song’s lyrics, as if they were trying to match O’Connor’s stellar (and studio-accurate) vocals.
“I love you, Alex!” screamed a loud and burly guy with all his heart from the VIP seated section.
Of the many concerts I’ve been to, the energy that the audience showcased throughout O’Connor’s two-hour performance is unmatched. Every song rocked the massive Araneta Coliseum to its core –– whether it was those that O’Connor played as if we were at a dance party, or at an intimate slumber party where we confessed our most somber and candid thoughts.
His hits “Sunflower”, “The Shade”, “Uno”, “Happiness”, “Untitled”, and “Corduroy Dreams” were just some of the many highlights from the first half of O’Connor’s set ––but following the infectious energy of “Keep It Up”, the rest of the show went to uncharted territory as he amped things even further than expected.
“I love it so much up here, they’re going to have to drag me off this f–king stage,” O’Connor exclaims.
“I’m trying to make the roof of Araneta shake tonight, so I’m going to ask you to give me as much energy as you can. Could you do that for me?” he asks the crowd.
And in an instant, the audience shouted and stomped along to the rhythm of every beat –– with O’Connor conducting as if he were leading an orchestra.
By the time “Best Friend” began its first few notes, O’Connor gently asked the crowd to put all their phones, cameras, and devices away. He told the crowd, “I want this moment to be a special one shared between just me and you [the audience]. No phones, recordings, or whatsoever, because this is only going to be for me and you guys.”
Surprisingly, the entire crowd complied –– leaving no lights nor device in sight aside from the spotlight focused solely on O’Connor and his guitar. As he continued the song, the audience sang along to every word –– assisting O’Connor in building up the track’s climax. But wow, were we not ready for what came next.
As soon as O’Connor sang “You’re gonna wanna be my best friend, baby…” from the bridge, his band joined along for an explosive moment that had confetti launched from both sides of the stage, marking a memorable sight for those in attendance. Fans and concert-goers went wild by this point, dancing the night away in a euphoric celebration that solidified this as an event for the books.
By the time O’Connor closed his set with “Loving Is Easy” and “It’s Not The Same Anymore”, he was already out of breath, but the audience still retained the momentum and excitement from the beginning of the show. As they hummed along, O’Connor began to bid the audience farewell, sharing his gratitude for the immense and outpouring show of love from his fans.
“This is the best f—king show we’ve ever had, wow. You’re the best crowd we’ve ever had, and we can’t wait to go back here again as soon as we can.” O’Connor shared.
After introducing his band, O’Connor blew multiple kisses towards the crowd in all directions and runs away off stage. But as the audience petitions loudly, “One more song!”, he comes back for an encore to perform the intimately penned “Pluto Projector”.
Overall, the experience of witnessing Rex Orange County live and in the flesh is something that fans have found to be transformative.
“No joke, but this is the best concert I’ve ever been to,” a woman in the VIP Standing section said, letting out a huge sigh as she walked out of the venue.
It’s a moment that took three years to come to fruition, a reality that not many fans were sure would happen at one point –– but now that it did, we’re glad to conclude that every moment was Amazing and Worth It from the beginning to end.
More song puns aside, we’re dead serious about how joyous and unforgettable the night was. Even though the concert just finished, we’re already anticipating the announcement of his next visit to the Philippines as we’re sure it’s going to be as great (or perhaps even better?) as what he showed us this time.