Live Review Declan McKenna, The Garage, London 23rd March 2017

Declan McKenna, The Garage, London

It’s a bolder, brasher incarnation than the fresh-faced teen that broke through.

“I want all those people at the bar to come forward. You’re here to see me, not a pint of Stella!” exclaims Declan McKenna to tonight’s London crowd. 

It’s not just his sharp-tongued stage banter that makes the singer-songwriter appear a bolder, brasher incarnation than the fresh-faced teen that broke through following that Glastonbury appearance. His usual t-shirt and tracksuit get-up has been replaced with a white boiler suit, glitter-adorned cheeks and kohl-rimmed eyes, while his demeanour boasts a new-found confidence. 

But the biggest difference of all is in his, and the band’s, performance. From the first roaring chorus of wonky-pop number ‘Isombard’ it’s evident how much stronger his vocal has become and how much more relaxed the band are with the set. Declan’s energy is still wildly infectious but his delivery has been boiled down to something more considered and crafted.

Throughout the night there’s a sense that he’s closing the door on one era, and opening a door to the next. The setlist is no longer dominated by EP material and older singles, but loaded with new cuts from his upcoming debut. There’s an obvious growth in his new sound, with many of the songs relying on a strong backbone of guitar and vocals instead of hyperactive electronics. 

Of the new material, the sombre ‘Listen To Your Friends’ is a surefire highlight, Declan showcasing his socio-political awareness in a rallying spoken word interlude. There’s nothing that compares to the rapturously-received ‘Brazil’ though, as he’s almost transported out of the venue on a sea of hands. 

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Photos: Kasia Osowiecka