There was an electrifying buzz around The Theater at the Virgin Hotels on Friday, May 27th. Rex Orange County brought a line out the door and a full house for the Las Vegas stop on his WHO CARES? Tour. You could sense the excitement and energy just walking into the venue. Going into The Theater, you were immediately greeted by those who were assumed to be tour mascots – a costumed heart, and a thumbs-up character – and offered an opportunity to take photos with them. This set a light-hearted vibe that would be fitting for the impending show. This gesture was small and simple, but an effective way to put a little personality into the experience.
At the very moment that the lights went dark and the show was signaled to begin, all you could hear were gasps of excitement and all you could see was a sea of people rushing from the lobby area to their seats. Despite the contrasting energy, Rex Orange County eased in the crowd with a slow song from the titled-tour album WHO CARES? (2022). The song was “MAKING TIME” and in the album, it is used more as an interlude, so using it as an introductory song for his concert was such an interesting choice. I think it provided a sort of familiar comfort to the crowd. It felt as if the show was picking up after a time of absence and Rex Orange County was welcoming his fans back to his show.
After the first song, he went right into the meat of WHO CARES? performing very danceable, bright numbers such as “KEEP IT UP,” AMAZING,” and “ONE IN A MILLION.”
He had a full band behind him including horns, a trumpet player, and a saxophonist. The lights were ever-changing in color and the set was very playful. There was dalmatian spotted wallpaper and flooring and LED thumbs-up character cut-outs, resembling the one fans met at the door, all with legs and different colors. From the beginning, the crowd was screaming the lyrics along with him, but everyone reached a new level of high energy when he played “Television / So Far So Good” from his 2017 album Apricot Princess. The crowd jumped up and down and knew all of the lyrics by heart which was not surprising as the song is currently Rex Orange County’s most popular song on Spotify.
Over the course of the next few songs, one from his album Pony (2019) and a few more WHO CARES? features, it was nice to see crowd interaction and participation led by Rex Orange County. He would say “hands up!” and the crowd would follow, waving their hands and swaying to the beat. He would yell “sing!” and the crowd would scream and sing at double the volume.
Another highlight of the night was his take on “Lovin’ You” by Minnie Riperton. It was a beautifully executed cover, as he accompanied himself on piano. Though his vocals and pianist skill sounded as effortless as breathing to him, you could hear the love he has for this song. The arrangement was unique and fresh sounding, and he remained so musically expressive.
Thus far, the songs off of WHO CARES? had gotten an amazing fan reaction in the show, and with the next song he did, “4 Seasons” off of Apricot Princess. Being able to hear older favorites made the crowd go crazier. Clearly, the addition of his older work mixed in with the hype of the newest album made this night as special as it could possibly be for his listeners. The reaction to each song he began was definitely something to remember. After “4 Seasons” finished, a cartoon sun and moon with smiley faces transitioned onto the stage as a backdrop. The band also transitioned off and Rex Orange County told the audience: “It’s just you and I now, I hope that’s alright.”
The next few songs exclusively featured his vocals, guitar, and piano with the exception of a few effects from electronic keys. This meant you could hear the crowd passionately singing with him all the more clearer. Anyone could tell this intimate part of the show meant a lot to his fans, it was an opportunity for fans to hear and experience Rex Orange County in his most bare, raw form. It showed his ability to move people with simply his voice, a couple of instruments, strong intent, and a simple set. Suddenly a jarring note on his electric guitar rang out and the crowd went crazy for “Corduroy Dreams” from his debut album Bcos U Will Never B Free (2016). The song ended in a set change, large colorful flowers with disco balls in the middle of them, and the entire band returned for another “WHO CARES?” favorite “OPEN A WINDOW.”
The production quality fit the show perfectly; through the simplicity of the intimate moments compared to the high-energy, colorful vibe set to the bigger, bolder and louder moments with the full band everyone dancing to and jumping up and down. The show was going into its second half and Rex Orange County was clear that he wanted energy from the audience; absolutely everything the crowd had from this point on until the show ended. The crowd did not disappoint at all. Rex Orange County didn’t disappoint on this front either, as he gave it his all. He supplied an insane amount of energy that fueled and pushed the crowd to let loose, dance harder, jump higher, and scream at the top of their lungs.
Arguably, the setlist was made up entirely of fan favorites, and there came another one. As soon as he started playing the guitar part, fans started singing along to his 2017 single “Sunflower” and orange-yellow lights, reminiscent of sunlight, illuminated the stage. He also featured horn solos on this song, as well as a few others, which spoke to Rex Orange County’s jazz and soul influence, and also added other musical elements for the crowd to vibe to. The very few fans who were sitting at that moment stood up for another “Best Friend” (2017) and Rex Orange County told everyone to put their phones down for the rest of the song in order to enjoy the full experience and lose their minds- which everybody did. It felt as if a tremor ran through the venue. The resounding applause was followed by a rainbow-lit scene and yet another hit single, “Loving is Easy” (2017). Beach balls were being tossed through the pit and he was successful in getting everyone to dance. Anyone could tell from the audience’s reaction alone that these singles were some of his most iconic songs to date.
As he announced the last song, “WHO CARES?” the crowd showed how sad they were that the night was coming to an end. To keep things light, he asked the fans when he comes back if they would come to see him again, to which they replied, obviously, with very enthusiastic screams and cheers ‘yes!!!’ He acknowledged and thanked his amazing band and they left the stage. Seconds later, the crowd began chanting for one more song. The stage lights suddenly flashed on and he returned to the stage. The excited screams filled the buzzing venue once again and he performed “Pluto Projector” from Pony and it was so nice to hear everyone sing along to the very heartfelt, contemplative lyrics of this song before the night was over.
As a casual listener of Rex Orange County, and this being my first time seeing him live, he definitely lived up to the wide popularity his music receives. The concert built a cohesive theme. It was a concert that was fun to be a part of – through the help of simple details like the vibrant set and decor to the way the setlist felt carefully crafted to the songs his fans loved most. From what I could tell, the line of antsy fans out the door, the burst of excitement as the show was beginning, and the crowd screaming his lyrics and dancing nonstop were well-deserved. The Las Vegas crowd made it clear they couldn’t wait to have him back.
Article By: Kailyn Richards
Photographer: Gaby D.