Last week, alternative promoters ‘Now Wave’, celebrated 10 years of music in Manchester with Mac DeMarco topping the bill. A year on from his latest album This Old Dog, Mac and his band have been back on the road touring. The third studio album indicated that DeMarco matured in his song writing with less doing so much more. Themes included his relationship with his father and a melancholy coming of age. That being said there is always room in his music for one more love song.
So has his live performance grown in the same way as his music?
DeMarco is a seasoned performer with numerous sell-out shows on this European Tour. He’s known for having an eccentric character on stage along with his bandmates Joe McMurray, Andrew Charles White, Jon Lent and Alec Meen. From the beginning, energy levels were high with the audience chanting the tune of the lo-fi track ‘On the Level’. In the same way ‘Salad Days’ took on a different more upbeat feel with the lyrics resonating in the crowd.
Noteworthy moments in the set included indie classics ‘Freaking Out the Neighbourhood’ and ‘Ode to Viceroy’ which had everyone moving. The latter, of course, resulted in noticeable plumes of smoke rising out of the crowd, likely from hipsters who care a little too much about getting hold of American cigarettes. A personal highlight for me was ‘One More Love Song’ with Alec Meen adding jazz improvisation on piano. An unexpected oldie also featured with a fast-paced rendition of ‘Rock and Roll Nightclub’ from DeMarco’s early days.
Considering the band’s experience they made some unfortunate errors. The track ‘Cooking Up Something Good’ lost much of its impact with a verse missing in its performance. In addition, Andrew Charles admitted that he forgot his part for ‘One Another’ so replaced the instrumental with his high pitched vocals. As much as this was an impressive take on the track, it was a symptom of a mistake on his part. In spite of this, the set ended strongly with a trio of fan favourites: ‘My Kind Of Woman’, ‘Chamber of Reflection’ and ‘Still Together’.
What came next was a sort of after show. Albous HR took the stage to perform vocals for timeless covers of Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name’ followed by Nirvana’s ‘Heart Shaped Box’. Andrew Charles took the lead next announcing that he was to become mayor of Manchester.
Charles proceeded to break into frantic metal covers, the audience seemed confused with many even walking out. Things continued to descend into oddity with a rather sloppy version of Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s ‘Under The Bridge’. During all this Mac sat idly by enjoying a beer, almost as if it was unplanned. Finally, he got back up and tied off the set with an emotional encore of ‘Watching Him Fade Away’.
Personally, this is not what I wanted from Mac DeMarco, it became a little too sporadic, even with his reputation. His weird stage presence retracted from the sentiment of the music. Though many of his followers find this element of his gigs a key part of the experience.
The performance remained profound and enjoyable with a range of pace in the setlist. Perhaps, though, if DeMarco devoted more time to his own music rather than multiple covers many fans would have walked away happier.