For a 19-year-old musician with only one album under his belt, Declan McKenna has done pretty well for himself. Just last weekend, McKenna accomplished the rare feat of selling out a Sunday show at the Majestic. That night, the crowd was a melting pot of Madisonians of different ages — from young adolescents to college students to middle age adults. I’d like to think that the latter were present because they truly enjoy McKenna’s transcendent music, not because they had to chaperone their preteen children.
Although most of his listeners hail from Great Britain, McKenna has successfully crossed over into the American mainstream. Unbeknownst to me, McKenna has acquired quite the fan following in the short amount of time he has been active. Just a block away from the venue, the screams and screeches of teenage girls could be heard. During the show, every song was accompanied by the vocals of die-hard fans in the crowd singing along. In the few moments of silence between changing songs, you could hear audience members’ screaming declarations of love for McKenna. I’ve never been to a One Direction or “Baby” era Bieber concert, but this seems like an early version of what they would have been like. McKenna had metallic glitter on his cheeks that reflected in the blue and red lights that shined down on him. Many of the audience members had joined him and smeared glitter on their faces prior to the show. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the memo.
McKenna performed tracks from his first and only album What Do You Think About the Car? Hits like “Brazil” and “Paracetamol” made the venue shake. Most of his slower paced songs like “Listen to Your Friends” and “Bethlehem” were altered and amplified for live performance in order to better fit the audience’s high energy. While performing, the band and McKenna looked like a bunch of kids that genuinely enjoyed being on stage and the center of attention, dancing and jumping to the sounds of their own music. The band’s energy was infectious.
Sometimes the movements and actions of the band became overzealous and dramatic. The jumping, skidding and running across the stage soon made the band clash into each other and become a hazard. The one attempt to crowd surf quickly went awry once the crowd couldn’t hold McKenna up. Then, sometimes the actions of McKenna and the crowd just became cringey — throwing his half-drunk water bottle into the crowd for fans to fight over and then pass around to drink out of (ew).
The Sunday Times said that Declan McKenna is currently “hailed as a Bob Dylan for today’s teens…” I think the staff writer for The Sunday Times is a little off their rocker, but there’s no doubt that McKenna is able to capture the attention of the audience and unite them in some way. He has already accumulated a following at such a young age and I can’t wait to see what’s up next for this “modern-day Bob Dylan.”