Live Review: Declan McKenna @ 02 ABC, Glasgow

4 mins read
Declan McKenna. Photo: Chuff Media

by Stuart Graham

Declan McKenna did a fantastic job of hyping the huge crowd packed into the O2 ABC for headliners Blossoms at the Glasgow gig on the 1st of October.

The 17-year-old Hertfordshire lad has taken Britain by storm since winning the ‘Glastonbury Emerging Talent’ award in 2015; judging by his performance at the Glasgow venue there is no questioning why this is.

Now usually to be a support act is a rather daunting task; to play in a room full of people who are all there to listen to some other band’s music. The crowd a support act play for are just hoping that they play and finish quickly so the set up for the headliners can happen sooner, and they can listen to the music they actually came to hear.

However, upon McKenna’s entrance to stage, the crowd actually seemed like they were there to see him; it being likely a lot of them were. Without so much as a hello or an introduction, McKenna launched straight into the music, leaving that unimportant talking bit for later. By the chorus of this first song, it seems clear that McKenna was a born performer; despite his age and despite his relatively short music career, this young lad filled and owned the stage he was on.

With a sound resembling what it would be like if The Vaccines, Jake Bugg and The Wombats all got together and had a lovechild, McKenna embraced this style with his movements and behaviour on stage – with the energy of a rock star without the narcissism and crowd surfing.

The boy wasn’t hindered by the short time he was given to perform, being only a support act; instead he took the time to both play some lively fan-favourites and some new material, giving those unfamiliar with him a real taste of him as an artist.

But McKenna and his guitar were in no way the only ones filling the stage, his band were on incredible form for the duration of the set. The female on back-up guitar simply shone at moments and her and McKenna dancing their guitars at each other during a riff lightened some serious moments in the set.

The song I feel shone through all other in the set was ‘Paracetamol’. The song starts slow, with dark emotive lyrics and a stripped back sound. However the chorus packs a fuller, louder sound and had the audience bobbing along with the song’s defined routine beat. This was especially well performed and seemed to get most of the audience moving – that buzz created lasting the rest of the night.

The style sound of McKenna as an arstist still seems to be developing, not having settled on any defined genres yet. But to me that’s when the best material comes from artists. With such a range as McKenna has, his appeal goes further than just one or two audiences and I would without a doubt describe him as a universal artist who is slowly but surely waiting for his big time.

Watch this space – McKenna was not an artist I was familiar with but, after his strong performance, he is most certainly someone I hope I listen to more in the future.

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