The Verse’s Alex Berdugo reviews Declan McKenna’s gig at Concorde 2 on 20th October 2017.
As the crowd finished singing along to A Ha’s Take On Me in the interval, it was clear that there was something magical in the air. Declan McKenna was about to perform in the sold-out Concorde 2 and the audience that awaited him was nothing short of perfect. The anticipation was positively infectious as the throwback 80s hits were played – an ideal start to a headline show
The band calmly took the stage and opened with a rocking rendition of The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home. McKenna had the crowd in his pocket as he sang the first lines. Their screams almost drowning out his music. The song was catchy and fuelled with adrenalin, the guitar solo midway depicting the young frontman as a rock god against the lights. Unfortunately, some feedback was noticeable at this point of the set, occasionally clashing unpleasantly with the music. Despite this, the band carried the hindrance well and it was dealt with quickly.
Make Me Your Queen was phenomenally performed. The drummer held the other musicians together like superglue, creating a solid wall of sound. The lead vocals were spot on. McKenna was flicking into falsetto and out again like a light switch, the song’s chorus accentuated by the crowd’s participation. In true frontman fashion, McKenna swapped between an acoustic guitar and his electric guitar halfway through, his stage presence seemingly off the scale.
An invaluable element of the show was the lights. The colourful display was tailored to each song, making the gig feel like a rock concert ten times the size of Concorde 2. Often, there would be a combination of three colours at a time, intensifying the current song and giving each individual tune a life of its own. The smoke machines also appeared to be in overdrive. The stage seemed like some kind of an alternate reality, providing a psychedelic experience for us in the audience.
Bethlehem was one of the highlights of the evening. The basslines were prominent in the live mix, boosting the power of the song. The bass player was also able to emphasise the vocal melodies and demonstrated the superb musical chemistry in the band. Simultaneously, the lead guitarist was pulling off impressive lead guitar lines under McKenna’s voice in the chorus, bringing a new depth that was a marvel to listen to.
The set ended surprisingly early (approximately 9:30pm) but it was a satisfactory conclusion. McKenna wasn’t too afraid to crowd surf, keeping his crowd engaged all the way to the end. Overall, it was a sensational gig from an artist still so early in his career. A performance that a seasoned professional would have given, it was a true example of a rock gig.