Live Review: Declan McKenna @ Lafayette

The Mic is in virtual attendance as Declan McKenna wows the digital crowd with a trip through his delightful new album, Zeros.

Over the past few months, the world has had to change and adapt to the new normal. The music industry is no exception. With gigs and festivals cancelled, fans' longing for live music has kept growing bigger, and it has been left too livestreams to fill the void. Out of all these, a true highlight was Declan McKenna playing at one of London’s newest venues, Lafayette. His sophomore record, Zeros, which came out 4th September, was received with high praise from both critics and the public, and was an outstanding progression from his debut, What Do You Think About The Car? To celebrate the release, McKenna and his band live-streamed a performance of the album in its entirety.

Many of the livestreams throughout quarantine were performed in artists’ home studios or lounges, making them feel more like an intimate acoustic session in a record shop than a true in-person gig. However, McKenna stepped things up by creating what was possibly the best alternative to live music - an all-singing all-dancing streamed set from one of London's most exciting new venues.

Despite London's Lafayette only opening at the beginning of 2020, it is already curating a promising line up for 2021 (including the likes of Marsicans and Willie J Healey amongst others), and it was clear that an immense effort had still been put into the aesthetics and stage design of the show. Taking inspiration from Declan’s recent music videos for Daniel, You’re Still A Child and Rapture, an LED screen at the back of the stage displayed dystopian-esque animations, whilst the stage centre became home to a dead tree stump (another feature seen throughout the music videos).

The set started just like any other gig. The livestream opened onto darkness, intro music started and, once everyone was ready, the darkness faded away to reveal Declan and his band. The frontman's outfit was nothing short of extravagant; glittery earpiece, sparkly shoes and coat, and two red and blue lines under each eye (a subtle homage to the great David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane). Even his Telecaster was covered in golden sparkles. As the first few notes of You Better Believe started playing, the band immediately sprung to life.

'McKenna’s youthful joie de vivre and energy transpired through the lyrics as the band marched through the entirety of Zeros'

McKenna’s youthful joie de vivre and energy transpired through the lyrics as the band marched through the entirety of Zeros before revisiting a few of his previous hits, such as Brazil and British Bombs. Though feeling rigorously rehearsed, professional and planned, as a livestream of this scope would demand, the performance still managed to capture much of the rawness and vivacity that have inspired McKenna's volant surge to indie stardom.

The whole affair therefore represented a solid improvement from the typical live-streamed performances that have inundated lockdown, being as close to the real deal as it could have been. Declan said that he “hope(d) this gig single-handedly makes up for all the bands not on tour this year”, and although it did not quite compensate for the loss of live music this summer, it certainly remained an immersive experience. The twenty-one-year old has already been called the voice of a generation by many, and with a great future ahead of him, he shows no signs of slowing down.

Words by: Alex Ollier

Edited by: Dominic Allum