REVIEW: Declan McKenna

As Glasgow’s famous King Tuts rapidly filled up with eager young fans, you would be forgiven in thinking the venue had been transported back to the 90s. Retro Kappa jackets, ankle grazers and Dr Martens, the crowd was well kitted out to see rising star Declan McKenna.

The atmosphere was palpable with excitement bouncing off the walls. With the lights diming Declan’s first, and only, support act Girli bounced onto the stage. Dazzling with her bright pink hair, pink tartan suit and infectious dance beats, Girli certainly knew how to get the crowd pumped up. Probably the success of Girli’s act for the evening was knowing her target audience – with songs about ditching the guy that’s not treating you right, texting back or two-timing, the young crowd was lapping it up.

Bubble gum sweetness with pop-infused dance tracks, Girli certainly worked the Glasgow crowd into a frenzy, from bouncing into the audience to donning a Donald Trump mask to jeers and boos; the crowd were certainly more than hyped for what was to come.

Filling the interlude with classic tunes from Abba to Shaggy, the enthusiasm of the crowd was building before the lights went down to a deafening cheer. Declan McKenna and his band bounced on stage throwing riffs and drum beats booming around the small King Tuts room before breaking down for the introduction of Isombard.

On the promotional trail for his upcoming debut album What Do You Think About The Car?, Declan was appreciative for the fans who had turned out and allowed him to perform a selection of unheard songs, saying: “I know it’s awkward just standing there listening to songs you’ve never heard, but thank you.”

Despite performing unknown songs the crowd were having a visibly good time, jumping about and taking pictures – with demands for Declan to take off his shirt; which filled the room with screams when he obliged.

Already being hailed as a young protester writing politically charged songs, it was no surprise an encouragement to register to vote was made by Declan. Having been very active on the political trail on his social media accounts, the call to arms was met by cheers for the crowd with chants of Labour and SNP as Declan began performing a new song – inspired by the current political climate.

Declaring the slow part of the show had now finished, this was the time for the fan favourites to come into full force. The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home was met with an electric welcome before balloons, confetti and an androgynous Declan danced across the stage during Paracetamol – a song dedicated to Leelah Alcorn who committed suicide after being forced to go through transgender conversion therapy.

Reminiscent of a young Jarvis Cocker of Pulp, Declan’s glitter-covered face gliding across the stage to interact with the crowd tied the performance together. Taking time to speak with his crowd, engaging with audience members shouting back at him, the 18-year-old definitely knows how to handle his own; a must with a Glasgow crowd.

Chants of ‘free the nipple’ saw Declan removing his last layer of clothing to a deafening roar, smoothly transitioning into playing the beginning riffs of Brazil – arguably one of Declan’s most well-known songs to date, a favourite with the Radio 1 crowd.

Glitter, confetti, an elegant mix of politically-charged songs and stage presence from someone so young, it’s clear Declan has a lot to give when it comes to writing music and performing. More time on the road will see him hone in on live performances and, no doubt, with the release of his album, see his fan base grow tenfold – Declan McKenna is definitely one to watch.

Declan will be touring and playing festivals throughout the summer. What Do You Think About The Car? is out on 21 July. To find out when he’s near you check out his website.

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