Navigating the live music scene in the pandemic has been difficult for artists and fans alike. Cancellations, rescheduling, lockdowns and, in Declan McKenna’s case, false positive tests, have put many plans up in the air. Despite a few days of uncertainty whether the gig could happen, the Nick Raynes LCR came alive in the presence of Declan McKenna’s ever energetic, exhilarating performance.
Support came from CMAT, also known as Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson, an Irish indie-pop singer whose satirical songs reflect on the emotional roller-coaster of life. The most memorable moment of her set for me was I Wanna Be a Cowboy Baby, a note on feeling trapped by loneliness and wanting to be as free as the people in the Vine it’s referencing. Regardless, her nostalgic, country-esque melodies were enough to ease the crowd into the night.
As the band walked on to The Beatles’ With a Little Help from my Friends, the room was buzzing with excitement, beginning the set with Beautiful Faces. McKenna played a mixture of material – well-loved classics from his debut album What Do You Think About the Car? including Make Me Your Queen, Isombard and Brazil, as well as songs from his second album Zeros, which this tour supports. Zeros is rich with 70s nostalgia and influence – The Key To Life on Earth, Be an Astronaut and Daniel, You’re Still A Child defined by rich guitar riffs, groovy baselines and piano pieces. The LCR was filled with scattered light from giant disco balls, particularly beautiful in slower songs like Emily, but nothing was brighter than the joy on all the dancing faces.
The glitter-clad McKenna’s lyrics often critique society, everything from mental health, transphobia, police brutality and the failures of the Government (Listen to Your Friends particularly relevant with recent cuts to Universal Credit). For our generation, however, screaming out the words to protest songs with deceptive rhythms is increasingly familiar.
This isn’t the only time I’ve seen Declan perform this year, being there at Latitude Festival for his (and many other artist’s) first dive back into live music since the pandemic started – both times I’ve been impressed by the charisma and energy he brought to the stage. His latest single My House was released back in July 2021, meaning it’s unlikely that we’ll see anything new from Declan for a while – but if you can catch a show at some point, you won’t be disappointed.