‘In an age of apathy, Declan McKenna is a beacon of hope’
Zach Hughes
16:09 13th February 2020

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BRITs Week 2020 is in full swing, featuring a collection of artists coming together with the charity War Child to raise money for children affected by war. Last year, Declan McKenna released ‘British Bombs’, a poignant and compelling track that takes aim at the British government’s hypocrisy in supplying bombs being used to strike Yemen. It seems only fitting, then, that Declan McKenna is featured amongst the star-studded line up coming together to help victims of this vicious cycle.

The Islington Assembly Hall is fast filling as support band Scors deliver a brief but hard-hitting set filled with punchy indie rock. Before long, the lights dim and a hazy cover of ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ begins to play overhead. As Declan McKenna follows his band onto the stage the hall echoes with jubilant screams.

McKenna waves to the audience and strikes a glorious figure, donning denim shorts, a silk t-shirt and glittery makeup. The crowd instantly respond to the band opening with an emphatic performance of ‘Make Me Your Queen’, singing and bouncing along in unison. As confetti cannons blast into the audience, the atmosphere is euphoric.

The singalong continues through performances of ‘Isombard’ and ‘Mind’, and it becomes quickly apparent the singer is an individual born for the stage. His movements are erratic and with each track his vigorous vocals often build to a screaming crescendo, pushing the crowd further into a fever of dancing and singing.

As the lights dim and offer a moment of respite, McKenna addresses the crowd and says he will play a track from his upcoming album, Zeros, so long as it doesn’t “end up on the internet”. If new track ‘Life On Earth’ is anything to go by, the upcoming album is sure to be a winner that expands on the experimental indie rock of his debut record, What Do You Think About The Car?

Shortly after, we’re treated to another preview of the upcoming album. Taking to the keyboard, the musician warns the audience “this is a new instrument for me”. As he deftly delivers beautiful ballad ‘Be An Astronaut’, a song which culminates in a knockout solo with both McKenna and guitarist Isabel Torres simultaneously playing each other’s instruments. 

Whilst Declan McKenna is deservedly the focal point, one of the greatest triumphs of the performance is the cohesiveness of the band. This is laid bare as they deliver a mammoth and expansive back-to-back performance of ‘Listen To Your Friends’ and ‘Humongous’, an extravaganza of impromptu jams and indulgent solos.

The best is, however, saved until the end, as the set is rounded off with ‘British Bombs’ and an encore of his breakthrough single ‘Brazil’ paired with recently released ‘Beautiful Faces’. All three of these tracks underline what makes Declan McKenna a stand-out artist; a naturally gifted musician that uses their platform and artistic expression to reflect on the world we live in, whilst bringing the spotlight onto difficult issues and giving a voice to those without one. In the age of increasing apathy and disillusionment, he’s a beacon of hope and should be cherished.

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Photo: Aryan Jafri