Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Live Review :: Declan McKenna + Clean Cut Kid :: The Barfly, London - Feb 15 2016

Live Review

Declan McKenna + Clean Cut Kid + Greasy Deep  

The Barfly, London

February 15 2016

Words/Photos: Alex Marshall

The NME Awards shows at the start of the year typically provide a few clues for those looking for the 'next big thing' for the year ahead, and Declan McKenna’s sold out visit to the Barfly is looking likely to keep that tradition going for 2016.

First on were hip-hop collective Greasy Deep, with nearly as many on stage performing - 12 - as people out front watching when they started. It was hard to know whether they were some kids who had strolled in off the street or the future of British hip-hop, as they veered from rapping over funky house beats to Drake-esque solemnity, seemingly not too sure themselves of what they want to be. A steady stream of people through the door, however, meant that by the time they finished they had a half-filled room caught up in the confusion and more involved in the performance than they had anticipated at the start.

Liverpool’s Clean Cut Kid have been making huge steps towards the limelight over the past year, and by rights probably should have been at the top of this bill. They opened to a lukewarm room but almost immediately the crowd responded to the indie-disco anthem-in-waiting, 'Runaway', its glistening synths causing feet to move involuntarily across the room. These are songs you can’t help but dance to. New single 'Pick Me Up' is primed for long summertime road trips and 'Stay' brought some of the 80s' finest pop songs to mind in the middle of the set. Closing with the infectious 'Vitamin C', the song that is most likely to catapult them to success, Clean Cut Kid have started their assault on 2016 in some style and judging by their performance here will be filling this room by themselves in the not-too-distant future.

Declan McKenna has been on an upward curve since winning Glastonbury’s Emerging Talent contest in 2015, and arrives at the Barfly with major label backing, evidenced by the hoard of tastemakers, reviewers and label heads towards the back of the room. I last caught him supporting Blossoms in October, and hoped that the recent addition of a full band wouldn’t take anything away from the raw, pent-up energy I saw then. Opening with a brief solo number, leaving the heaving room in no doubt to his abilities on stage alone, McKenna reminded me of a more sparkly Zoo Kid - trashy but clearly a talented songsmith and musician. On stage, he comes across as an endearing if somewhat inexperienced performer, at one point coyly admitting he was struggling to tune his guitar with a capo on – an admission that brought a girl next to me to tears. Musically, the addition of the band brings the songs closer to their recorded sound without compromising the live experience. This is most clear on the two singles, 'Paracetamol' and 'Brazi'l, which with the backing they needed are destined to remain at the top of the lists and polls that can make or break an artist for some time to come.

Judging by the raucous end to the set - which saw McKenna practically crowdsurfing his way home - this show could well turn out to be one of those “I was there” moments, and if the teary-eyed teen girls are anything to go by, there’ll be no problem selling enough records to keep the people at the back of the room happy too.