By Ziggy Merritt
Quiet Slang has come to an end — for now at least. James Alex, the voice and unflappable persona behind Beach Slang, indicated as much Saturday night as he came to the stage, cumberbund and all. With work on the latest Beach Slang album set to begin nearly the moment he left the stage that night, the chorus of strings that replaced the brash feedback on his proper Beach Slang releases is set to retire.
First, it would be fair to take some time to describe the set dressing. Decked with fae floral displays, it felt very much like the antithesis of the grimy, yet pop-forward songs that Alex has been writing for years now. Then again, those same songs have always been culled from a vulnerable and emotional space so to say it’s the antithesis is perhaps a bit too on the nose.
Coming out on stage with a mismatched tuxedo and a plastic cup of what appeared to be sangria or some other sort of boozy delight, there was every indication that this would be a historic welcome home for the Philly native, as well as the tour manager, backup vocalist, and keyboardist Charlie Lowe, who was the sole accompaniment onstage. What came after his entrance was a nearly hour and a half long set that, in fully candid honesty, I was not able to stay through until the finish without being an irresponsible pet owner.
Covers made up the entirety of the performance. Quiet Slang alchemized tracks like “Dirty Cigarettes” and “Spin the Dial” into blissful chamber pop, while the seemingly endless yet enthralling encore saw Alex picking up the guitar for the first time that night to belt out not just several Replacements cover but anything from The Smiths to the Cure.
The crowd ate up everything that James gave them that night. Between gentle back-and-forth heckling, Alex fed off the energy, spitting booze into the air and gulping down plastic cups of the stuff hands-free. It had all the spirit of any single Beach Slang set, perhaps more so with the renewed sense of vigor that Alex seemed to carry with him throughout the entirely improvised and crowd-driven encore set.