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Live Review: Declan McKenna

The Civic, Trowbridge - 10/02/2024







For everyone who congregated in Marlborough’s town hall on a weekday evening in October 2021, tonight’s show will feel like a familiar return.


Declan McKenna is no stranger to Wiltshire record store, Sound Knowledge, having played an album launch show in association with the shop for every album he’s released. Tonight marks his third visit and consequently, his third album, What Happened To The Beach? released a mere 24 hours before tonight’s set.


Despite it being with Marlborough business, Sound Knowledge, the gig tonight is taking place in Trowbridge (or ‘Trowvegas’) around half an hour away from the shop, a new out store venue for these exclusive events, in a bid to bring in even bigger names to the Wiltshire town and its surrounding areas.


It’s been one hell of a 24 hours for Declan McKenna. The album release being yesterday aside, tonight’s showtimes were pushed back from an 8pm stage time to 9pm, which later becomes clear is due to McKenna playing a half-time set at the Spurs game that afternoon.


Arriving onstage in his kit (and later regretting the turtleneck), his usual onstage interactions begin from the get-go as a crowd member heckling his allusion to the football team, claiming Spurs are shit. “Go fuck your self!” laughs McKenna before going straight into early album single, Elevator Hum.


It’s a completely stripped back, intimate show tonight, with McKenna accompanied onstage by only guitarist, Isabel Torres, and keyboardist, Henry Pearce.


Despite being a show to celebrate his new album, there’s a mix of songs old and new tonight. Debut album track, Make Me Your Queen, is a familiar, more tender sing-a-long moment, whilst It’s An Act, one of the slower more vulnerable tracks from the new record, is one of the most stripped back songs of the evening, with only McKenna and a guitar and the other two band members sitting back on deck chairs at the back of the stage, adding to the beach aesthetic of his more recent releases.


Album opener WOBBLE receives an incredibly passionate cheer from the predominantly young teenage crowd, despite only being released the day before. Final single before the eventual album release, Mulholland’s Dinner And Wine, follows, and quite frankly, Declan McKenna has released the song of the summer in January, with the low-key sonics, wavy auto-tune and catchy chorus (‘I’ve got a boring apartment and all of the drugs / I’m fucking dangerous / I get what I want’) with a similar edge to that of the band formerly known as Easy Life.



The real star of the set however (other than the spare SD card I found in my purse half way through…)  is without a doubt Brazil, McKenna’s debut single exposing Fifa, and arguably biggest hit. As soon as the simple guitar riff begins, it’s met with cheers from the audience and bopping from almost everyone in the auditorium, before every word is sung back. There’s a teenage boy on someone’s shoulders (until security makes him get down) and there’s a span of generations in the room all having a great time. It’s euphoric despite the acoustic nature of the night.


British Bombs, a single released between albums but representing Zeros, the album with no acknowledgement tonight, follows similar suit. The last time Dec played a show with Sound Knowledge, the track (despite also being acoustic) was bizarrely met with a mosh pit. That doesn’t quite happen tonight, however, we’re close to it, McKenna turning his baseball cap to the side and layering beats before going into the melody, getting the crowd really hyped.


Exiting the stage abruptly after, a chant for one more song begins. Admittedly, I wasn’t convinced he’d reappear considering British Bombs is usually the closing number (I’ve seen Declan McKenna four times prior), so I was pleasantly surprised when him and the band came back for just that.


The final song is at a fan’s request, McKenna playing a stripped back rendition of Listen To Your Friends. It’s another track from his debut, What Do You Think About The Car? balancing out the setlist. There’s surprisingly a lot of chatter and audience members trying to be funny, at points in the set, it’s almost heckling as if at a comedy gig, but the low-level conversational chat is really felt during this particular moment, which interrupts the atmosphere to some degree. Some audience members being disengaged aside, however, the majority of the crowd join in with the spoken word segment at the end of the song (‘Look online / Do ten minutes of research and in turn find / The problem is poor kids who want holidays in term time’) before singing along to the final chorus.


As we all file out of the auditorium, Declan’s album b-side cover of ABBA’s Slipping Through My Fingers is played over the loud speakers setting a warm atmosphere as we set off into the cold air outside. All that’s left to do now is patiently wait for Declan McKenna’s inevitable return to the Wiltshire record store…





Sound Knowledge is an independent record shop located in Marlborough, Wiltshire. You can find their website here (https://www.sound-knowledge.co.uk/).


Sound Knowledge’s socials:


Twitter: @SoundKnowledge_

Facebook: @SoundKnowledgeMarlborough

Instagram: @soundknowledge_


KATIE HILLIER

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