Declan McKenna, O2 Academy, Edinburgh ***
“Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of my new album coming out,” young English singer-songwriter and current voice-of-a-generation contender Declan McKenna reminded his audience. “I'm only just getting to tour it, but it's all the better for it.”
Whether he’s been rueing the inactivity since his second album Zeros nudged him closer to success (it had an unsuccessful battle for number one with the Rolling Stones’ 1973 reissue Goats Head Soup), McKenna’s spent the time building a slick live show.
Against a psychedelic, checkerboard-pattern backdrop, the sequin-shirted young singer, guitarist and occasional pianist and his four-piece band provided the debut concert for the “new” O2 Academy Edinburgh venue. The place is the same, right down to the Corn Exchange sign above the door, but the rebrand is a welcome sign of investment in the city’s live music economy.
An enthused crowd of fans not much older than McKenna also offered evidence of demand for live music. This is who his music is for, from the catchy and sarcastic demolition of celebrity culture Beautiful Faces to notes of affirmation for any kid who feels detached from their elders in a world they can’t control in The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home and The Key to Life on Earth.
Without their glossy recorded production, the live versions of many of his songs have to rely on McKenna’s natural sense of melody and enthusiasm for performance to differentiate them, as they did most effectively on the spacey 90s scally-pop of You Better Believe!!! and the expansive, Beatles-shadowing Be An Astronaut.
Brazil’s gentle but irresistible dig at footballing corruption and British Bombs’ scathing attack on the worst elements British attitudes arrived at the end of the encore, both shards of real brilliance from an artist whose career deserves to grow quickly after the unscheduled interruption.
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