AGED 17, Declan McKenna isn’t the archetypal singer-songwriter penning songs about underage drinking and teenage misdemeanours.
The emerging Hertfordshire talent’s back catalogue includes a number challenging media stereotypes surrounding transgender issues, Paracetamol, another focussing on religion, Bethlehem, and his critically acclaimed hit, Brazil, serves as an indictment of the controversy at the heart of the 2014 World Cup.
A year on from sitting his GCSE exams, McKenna is the second support act on the bill behind uber-cool Stockport headliners, indie band Blossoms.
The bourgeoning alt-indie upstart, McKenna, is very much in experimental mode when it comes to his live performances, honing his skills and learning his trade.
Equipped with his backing band, the young lad – who is clad in a yellow striped shirt over the top of a black T-shirt, dark trousers and shiny, white Nike trainers – announces his arrival on stage by reeling of his first song, Brew.
At around 20.15pm with an hour or so to go before Blossoms are scheduled to get underway, the majority of a near-full 2,000 crowd is gathered – and McKenna’s opener receives a warm round of applause.
A few technical sound glitches coupled with inaudible interaction indicate McKenna is far from the finished article – but his talent and potential are clear to behold.
Mid-set the teenager performs Basic, and experimental mode is in full flow; McKenna sitting on stage, legs dangling below, for the first half of the song, before later energetically jumping off stage to fling himself towards to the crowd, singing up close and personal.
He is merely seeing what works and what doesn’t and, as it turns out, the crowd seem to take to this.
Saving his best till last, McKenna finishes with a two-pronged attack of Brazil and then recently released single Isombard.
Both songs are performed very well, but the latter, which starts off sounding like a vintage Stranglers song, is raucous, infectious indie rock in its pomp which rounds off proceedings strongly.
The future is bright for McKenna, it is easy to forget he is just 17.
- Declan McKenna performed at Birmingham’s O2 Institute on Friday, September 23.
By Jamie Barlow