Following the release of his debut album ‘What Do You Think About The Car’, 18 year old English singer-songwriter Declan McKenna and his band recently embarked on their biggest headline UK tour yet, performing in Limelight 2 (the band’s second Belfast show of the year). Since Declan last came to Belfast’s Oh Yeah Music Centre in May, he has performed massive sets at the likes of Reading and Leeds Festival and Glastonbury, and is now set to headline some of the biggest shows of his career so far.
Before entering Limelight, it had been a concern that much of McKenna’s younger core audience would not be in attendance, however it was fantastic to see that the crowd did not disappoint, demonstrating the wide-reaching appeal of McKenna’s songs.
Beginning the show were Irish indie rock trio whenyoung, another act which have been tipped for exciting things in the future. Highlights of the set included the band’s second single ‘Actor’, which showed off the vocal ability of lead singer Aoife Power. The trio played a set filled with a unique brand of indie rock with huge pop-punk elements, which combined with Power’s distinctive vocal style led to an atmospheric and enjoyable set. With shows in both Dublin and Limerick on the horizon following this support slot, they are certainly ones to watch, and I fully expect in the them in a headliner slot in the near future.
The excitement for the headliner was huge and the atmosphere continued to build until McKenna entered the stage. The set opened with one of the most recognisable songs, the anthemic call to arms that is ‘The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home’, expressing the disillusionment of the younger generation. The song clearly resonated with the audience, with the crowd singing along to every single lyric. This track clearly demonstrates why in McKenna’s short career he has already frequently been labeled as a “voice of a generation’. In the politically unstable times in which we live, the politically driven lyrics of tracks such as this as well as another highlight of the set, ‘Paracetamol’, which deals with issues such as sexual identity and depression, make Declan McKenna an essential act who vocalises the issues which young people truly care about.
The band followed with tracks from the recently released debut album including singles ‘Isombard‘, ‘Humongous‘ and ‘Bethlehem‘. These songs each demonstrate a unique aspect of McKenna’s songwriting. For a talent so young he already boasts a massively varied and impressive discography. McKenna and his band also demonstrated an extremely passionate stage presence and extensive crowd interaction, with him Declan even singing part of his recent single “Why Do You Feel So Down” in the audience, as well as telling a story of his first experiences of Belfast as a 13 year old while visiting his sister, who studied at Queens. It seems that the confidence of the band, which was already massively impressive during the Belfast show in May, has only continued to improve.
Closing with two fan favourites in debut single “Brazil” as well as “Listen To Your Friends”, it is clear that the set packed with anthemic hit singles did not disappoint. The crowd chanted Declan’s name as the band left the stage, bringing an end to a thoroughly enjoyable night. Before leaving the stage, McKenna remarked that while this gig was one of the smallest on the tour, it was one of his favourites.