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DECLAN MCKENNA Live at The Garage, London

Musician rounds off his headline UK tour with a show in London.

Dressed in white and armed in an electric guitar, with glitter on his face, the young British musician Declan McKenna takes to the stage at London’s The Garage on this Thursday night. Surrounded in majority by female band members, he addresses the eager crowd “Hello London! Come closer. You’ve come here to see me, not a pint of Stella” as he dives headfirst into the opener Isombard.

Self-confident and a tad cocky, but genuine all throughout, he serves another danceable tune Bethlehem and says: “It’s our biggest headline show and it’s sold out”, emphasising the band’s noteworthy achievement to date. Having played many gigs before, including a few pretty exciting supporting slots, makes this tour not only a challenging experience but a rewarding one too.

The young singer-songwriter emerged on the music scene with a couple of self-released tracks, then he won the Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition in 2015, and now his highly-anticipated debut album is rumoured for a spring release. The expectations are great of course, and many fans are thrilled to get a sneak peek of the new material here tonight.

Juxtaposed with the upbeat essence of the opening tracks, new cut Make Me Your Queen is a stirring acoustic ballad. Accompanied by the flashing lights blending in all shades of pink, the song captures as it gradually builds up to the emotive crescendo. However, the low pace is kept as Basic and Mind follow up, which kind of makes the crowd more relaxed and distracted, especially in the back of the room. Judging on the fact the show is sold out, I would’ve expected bigger engagement from the audience.

Luckily, we’re back on track when Declan showcases another new offering Listen To Your Friends, with a featured brilliantly rhymed spoken word sequence, and the fan favourite The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home. “Hopefully, this one will bring back the energy”, he says.

As expressed in the past, the young musician does not stray away from public and global issues that (should) concern all of us. Self-aware he crafts both politically and emotionally charged tracks that expose, in a way, the younger generation. What’s more, he’s on the right path to become a leading force and the voice of his generation as they fight for what they believe in.

As the show unfolds Declan introduces his band in between the songs, he makes a few jokes and shares a few stories. There’s something about the towels and Becks, and his sister’s friend’s birthday and Stuart’s birthday as we hear from the crowd. All is summed up by the artist “I’m just joking, I’m full of shit”. The constant effort to interact with the audience is quite noticeable but even if only a couple of first rows respond, it leaves a desired effect. There’s also a slight tinge of bashfulness in his stage persona, adding a sense of familiar comfort to the whole performance.

Declan McKenna mixes gleaming riffs with a tad raw but melodic vocal harmonies, but his lyricism is what carries the significance throughout. The infectious Paracetamol sees the young musician bravely stagediving whilst the acoustic new track Humongous is one of the stand out moments in tonight’s set. It’s a bit shame that many fans have kept all their energy for the closing songs, but Brazil finally makes them lose it.

“Thank you so much London! Just a little bit more”, singer shouts as he throws himself into the sea of hands that toss him around until the music stops.

The young charm alongside the enormous potential and universal themes hailing from his music surely find susceptible ground in current demographics. Declan McKenna has got it all, and we really look forward to watching as he rises and transforms into a great live act. It’s just the beginning after all.

Photos: Kasia Osowiecka