Live Review: Declan McKenna // O2 City Hall, Newcastle, 25.05.24


Declan McKenna once again satisfied Newcastle’s eagerness for his lovable demeanour and musical brilliance on the third night of his 2024 tour in support of his new album, What Happened to the Beach?

Opening with new track ‘Sympathy’, McKenna calls for us to “make peace and discover”, essentially echoing the tone of his current era and it’s a clear marker of where he’s at musically. He then transitioned, without hesitation, straight into 2017 song ‘Why Do You Feel So Down’, which ironically had quite a few people jumping, and immediately the audience felt the nostalgia of his first album – it doesn’t feel like so long ago that we first heard it, yet it’s already two albums away.

The show gave us a good taste of tunes from all three of the albums now under his belt, including the much loved ‘Isombard’ and ‘Beautiful Faces’, he lowered the guitar for a second and stood close to the mic, asking “Do you guys like dancing?” before bouncing off into another hit whilst seamlessly gliding between every note on his guitar.

McKenna then gives everyone a chance to take a ‘Breath of Light’ (it was absolutely boiling in the City Hall – so this was needed after continuous crowd-pleasers), and decrees that he is a “cheesecake junkie in a cosmic grief”. If the psychedelic influence wasn’t obvious enough via the lyrics or the integration of the band’s breath as part of the song’s beat, it was clear through the trance it had on the crowd. Of course, this would’ve been more profound if we weren’t all preparing to scream “GREAT BRITISH BOMBS IN THE YEMEN”. Joking aside, McKenna’s ability to pair such high energy bangers with intricate, melancholy moments of peace throughout the show without it feeling disjointed should be applauded.

Photo credits: Kai Goulder

McKenna has recently talked about how he’s recently been able to relax more when it comes to music, and the lack of pressure manifested itself through his performance. During the entire two-hour show, McKenna appeared to be relaxed and going with his own, cool flow, which his band mirrored. What makes him so likeable is the fact he’s not too cocky on stage, contrary to what we might expect of a frontman from the indie side of the music scene.

Breezing through more tracks, which included his 2015 debut single ‘Brazil’, McKenna then performed brand new track ‘Mulholland’s Dinner and Wine’. Of all his new work, this was the one that seemed to hit it off the best, which is unsurprising considering its menacing lyrics paired with the sweet-sounding tune makes it hard not to love and remember. Following up his debut with a new, more experimental song was risky, but it played off a treat.

Closing out with ‘British Bombs’, just as we’d hoped, McKenna gave us our final shout of the night- and to a heavily political one against war at that, he’s the non-cringe role model that the UK’s indie scene probably needs. It’s been almost a decade since Declan McKenna’s musical debut, and the 25-year-old has proven to us that he’ll keep on being authentic, and that’s how we know old, new, and yet-to-be-released music will continue to have us waiting for his return. Until next time!

Words by Kai Palmer

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