Deep in the caverns of Leeds University Union on a gloomy Tuesday evening, a magical moment was happening. There was something incredibly moving about the sea of glitter-clad, bright-eyed young faces hanging on every word of Declan Mckenna, particularly during powerful hit ‘Paracetamol.’ This newcomer has gained a vast and loyal following with his thoughtful lyrics and reputation for a raucous live show.
Opening act Feet, a band of Coventry students, fed off the buzzing anticipation of the crowd, delivering a fast-paced and punchy set. Declan Mckenna’s arrival, however, as he dressed in a white lab coat, was met with a thundering reaction. With a talented, full live band to bring his intelligent debut album, What Do You Think About the Car? to life, every song – from the acoustic ‘Make Me Your Queen’ to the anthemic ‘Brazil’ – had the crowd bouncing. Mckenna and band maintained an admirably high energy, coming into their own during the second half of the set with highlight hit ‘Humungous’, a bittersweet track with sparkly synths and sombre vocals. Clambering over the stage, Mckenna looked every inch the seasoned performer with his charismatic stage presence and endearingly awkward interactions with the crowd.
It was sweaty, it was raw and there was a lot of glitter – this was to be expected from Declan Mckenna, who delivered on his reputation for a high-energy, rough-around-the-edges indie-pop. His set was concise, showcasing a range of material from his debut in just an hour before concluding with a triumphant dive into the crowd, which seems to have become his signature move. Both Mckenna and the young crowd, dancing incessantly throughout the set, left me feeling satisfyingly exhausted.
Photo Credit: Meg Firth