Declan McKenna: Bright, energetic, and a must-see live

Declan McKenna: Bright, energetic, and a must-see live

As the Zeros tour reached the O2 Academy Brixton, our Arts and Culture editor Kezia Reynolds was lucky enough to attend.

Rating: ⅘

As a huge Declan McKenna fan, I absolutely leapt at the opportunity to represent Carrot at the Brixton segway of the tour. I spent ages agonising over what outfit I should wear. What would make me look like both a cool and professional music journalist? Having ended up in the same pair of jeans I wear to every event (of whose zip later broke and I had to walk around with an unreasonably priced tour top wrapped around my waist) I headed off to Kentish Town. Only of course to reach the O2 Forum in Kentish Town and realise the gig was in Brixton. This full-on dyslexia ~moment~ only heightened my already omnipresent anxiety about going to a gig on my own. But this was for Declan McKenna, so I pulled myself together, had a couple of tinnies on the way, and arrived on time, slightly half cut and most importantly feeling confident and excited for the gig to begin.

The Venue:

Brixton Academy is a gorgeous venue. The standing area is a huge semi-circle that slopes downwards to the stage. Thus providing a perfect view of the stage wherever you’re standing.

The atmosphere was also great. Hoards of teenagers clutching pints (£6.75!!) and water bottles (£3.75!!) waiting in anticipation for something to happen.

The Support:

It’s not often you get a support act you actually bother to remember. But North West London’s Georgia was pretty fantastic. Just her and her drum kit had such a strong stage presence, the whole room was completely captivated. Her funky electro-pop bounced off the walls and I made a note to listen to more of her when I got home. Her cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Running up that Hill’ stood out particularly. Georgia managed to encompass her unique style in this cover without butchering the original features that make this song so iconic. 

Declan’s Grand Entrance:

As Georgia’s set came to an end and the stage technicians set the stage, we stood in complete anticipation. Large silver glitter balls were scattered across the stage, catching and then softening the harsh lighting above. A ten-minute wait ensued and then it was time. An offstage Declan McKenna began with a cover of ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ by the Beatles. A sure way to get the crowd singing. The lights flash from white to pink and out swaggers Declan McKenna. With no real theatrics to his entrance but an undeniable stage presence. A quick introduction and he begins, starting with ‘Beautiful Faces’ the fourth track of ‘Zeros’ complete with a confetti cannon.



The Sound:

The only real criticism I could see in the set was the sound quality. I found that the sound of the instruments overpowered Declan’s voice and that often it felt like he was being drowned out by the band. I wondered whether this was to do with where I was standing. However, I was center-left of the stage and did not have the same issue with Georgia’s set. Having said this, this slight sound issue did not have any effect on my or the audience’s experience. If his mic was a little louder a 5/5 rating would have been assured, but it really did not take away any enjoyment from the show and it is also a pretty common occurrence with live gigs. 


Declan was always dressed to impress. He wore a flowy white shirt and dress trousers complete with sparkly makeup. It was as if David Bowie and Morrisey had a love child. McKenna was often interactive with the crowd. When an audience member threw a bouquet of flowers to his feet, McKenna maintained his Morrisey vibe, incorporating the flowers into a dance. This was very reminiscent of the ‘This Charming Man’ (1984) music video. Thankfully Declan’s Morrisey expression only extended to flowers and dancing, rather than controversial and racist statements.

Notable Performances:

A number of songs stuck out to me during the set. First was during ‘Make Me Your Queen’ from Declan’s debut album ‘What Do You Think About The Car?’ (2017), where he switched from an acoustic to electric guitar halfway through. This set the vibe from the easy, laidback listening of the original to a more rocky and active performance. The crowd went mental and it was pretty cool to witness.

The energy of the crowd also contributed to the success of Declan’s performance. Most notable was during ‘Listen to Your Friends’ where the whole crowd chanted the rap at the end. The rap is a critique of  Britain and its government. ‘God bless the weatherman’ was screeched the loudest. ‘Weatherman’ of course means a coke dealer. It is perhaps obvious that the most provocative line would be screamed the loudest.

The show ended with ‘Brazil’. Probably Declan McKenna’s most popular song and (maybe I’m biased) and an objectively brilliant song. Everyone sang and danced along. The room felt vibrant and joyous. It made the most sense to end with this song. It was all over far too soon, and the crowd filtered through the doors in a steady stream. Much like a lake separating into little streams.

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