annabelbenton
27th May 2022

‘Roaring crowds in Manchester’: Declan McKenna rocks the Albert Hall

Declan McKenna rocks the Albert Hall on the much-awaited tour for his sophomore album ‘Zeros’.
‘Roaring crowds in Manchester’: Declan McKenna rocks the Albert Hall

It was a gig which had been rescheduled twice due to Covid, with ticketholders having waited for over two years to see indie sensation Declan Mckenna perform his second album Zeros in the flesh. The artist arrived in Manchester for two shows in a sold-out mini tour of the UK, and on the back of a landmark show at the Royal Albert Hall. The crowd was more than ready for a Zeros party, and the wait was certainly worth it.

McKenna first entered the stage with his band to the backdrop of The Beatles’ ‘With a little Help from my Friends’ to play ‘Beautiful Faces’. It was a great start to the gig, with the repeated refrain ‘put your hands up’ getting the crowd ready to jump around. Another fan favourite early on in the set was of course ‘The Key to Life on Earth’, which includes lyrics in homage to the “roaring crowds of Manchester”. The crowd were certainly roaring in full voice. McKenna played the whole of Zeros across the set, as well as the vast majority of his debut album What Do You Think About the Car.

Photo: Declan McKenna and CMAT, shot by Annabel Benton @ The Mancunion

For me, one of the highlights of the night was when McKenna brought out support artist CMAT (who’s solo gig I reviewed here) to sing a duet of ‘Make Me Your Queen’. The pair sat down at the front of the stage to combine gorgeous harmonies with Declan’s simple acoustic guitar. CMAT also joined McKenna for his most recent single ‘My House’, dancing around with a shaker and again providing some lovely harmonies. The pair of songs felt really special, with the two friends providing renditions you can only experience live.

Other standout moments included McKenna’s piano playing on ‘Be an Astronaut’ and ‘Daniel You’re Still a Child’, two songs which perfectly sum up the sound of his sophomore record Zeros. ‘Be an Astronaut’ was particularly captivating, with the keyboard raised up on the stage against a backdrop of glittering white and purple lighting. For me, the single is one which I listened to constantly in 2020, and to see it played live alongside 1800 other fans was very special. It was also a good moment to take a breather from the energy of the other songs and to just enjoy the music.

You’d expect your fair share of mosh pits and jumping at a McKenna concert, however this gig was on another level of energetic. By the time the set reached its six-song encore, the venue was extremely warm, I’d fallen over twice and was holding ice from cups of water to cool down. However, it’s all part of the experience and I just had to keep focused on the music. The final songs included McKenna’s most well-known tracks such as ‘Brazil’ and ‘Why Do You Feel So Down’, as well as a last-minute special addition to the set list thanks to just how amazing the crowd was. The song in question was ‘Brew’, the B Side to the artist’s debut single ‘Paracetamol’.

Photo: ‘Eventually Darling’, shot by Annabel Benton @ The Mancunion

The concert finished with ‘British Bombs’, perhaps McKenna’s best song which combines impassioned social commentary on the British arms trade in Yemen with catchy lyrics and great guitar riffs. ‘British Bombs’ summed up the whole night perfectly: an energetic performer, fantastic live music and a ridiculously raucous crowd. McKenna was able to transport his audience into both the worlds of experimental Zeros and youthful What Do You Think About the Car, culminating in the single which bridges the gap between his two albums.

If you can, I would highly recommend seeing Declan McKenna at either a festival over the summer (tickets are still available for Kendal Calling, Standon Calling and Finsbury Park) or when he next tours the UK. You’ll get to experience live music at its very best: loud, sweaty and so much fun.


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