It seems that part of the attraction of Mac DeMarco’s music is the man behind it and his charming yet sleazy brand of charisma. It also appears that a lot of people have bought into his image; an observation qualified by taking a look at the DeMarco replicas that loitered outside the Albert Hall in Manchester in the hours before the Pepperoni Playboy took to the stage.
This observation may lead one to question if the hype and popularity that currently surrounds DeMarco is based purely on his style or whether he has the substance to back it all up? Well, in answer to the latter, one would have to say… yes. Although I may not have been as swept away as some of the female devotees who donated items of their underwear to be launched at Mac during his performance; I felt his show had more depth than just his alluring slacker attitude and wardrobe choices.
DeMarco opened the set without much ado. Strolling onto the stage he immediately launched into “The Way You’d Love Her”, which was warmly accepted by a crowd who had, moments before, been progressively simmering in a palpable stew of anticipation. The sound he created from the off easily filled the spacious Albert Hall and dictated that the performance had the necessary power to energise the crowd. Unfortunately this came at the cost of a slight deterioration in the audio mix as well as DeMarco’s vocals being hard to distinguish at certain points. Nevertheless, it was nowhere near bad enough to spoil the performance.
During the set, DeMarco rattled through what have become his staples from the albums 2 and Salad Days. Although these were all great choices and performed well, the most pleasing part of the show was that the routine was heavily weighted towards the recently released mini-LP Another One. DeMarco included the aforementioned opener as well as the title track, “No Other Heart”, “Without Me”, “A Heart Like Hers” and “I’ve Been Waiting For Her”.
All these songs transitioned seamlessly into the set but still provided a variance of tone from his older material. It also proved that DeMarco is embracing the direction he is heading in, off the back of his most recent release. Fans of his debut LP would have been disappointed though, as none of the songs from that record managed to graduate into his set.
DeMarco certainly supplied the crowd with the sounds they came to hear and looked as though he was enjoying himself in the process. Throughout the performance, those in the lower tier of the venue lurched and swelled in reaction to the music and the post-song applauses testified to the quality with which the music was delivered. For the majority of the time during the songs, the crowd either chanted the lyrics back to the band or mimicked the twangling guitar melodies.
However, away from his trademark spangling guitar, DeMarco showed that he has more than one string to his musical bow. Near the end of the set he changed the dynamic by slowing things down with “Chamber of Reflection”. During the track, Mac coolly bobbed around the stage, mic in one hand and its stand in the other, crooning out lyrics that were gratefully soaked up by the crowd; he even attempted to imitate the Manc accent with hilarious affect.
Staying true to previous form, the set was dusted with what on paper would seem to be an incongruous selection of cover songs. Rammstein’s “Du Hast” was dispersed amongst the main body of the set and actually turned out to be a rather left field segue into “Freaking Out The Neighbourhood”. Also, versions of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water” were thrown in as an encore.
Although the covers were bizarre enough, they were all topped by the curious scene created via the entrance of a masked marauder decked out in the iconic garbs of the late and great Michael Jackson. The confusing appearance filled in for the absence of the Canadian frontman who took the opportunity to take a less than perfect stagedive; the quality of the effort most likely deteriorated by the surreal presence the crowd saw on stage before them.
The show that DeMarco put on demonstrated he is a consummate live act. For the most part the set contained a good balance and selection of songs, delivering the crowd, a steady stream of the material they paid for. Bearing that in mind, the gig did very occasionally feel rushed and more like a service than a heartfelt performance. DeMarco at times came over as a little subdued and his inter-song engagement with the crowd didn’t quite exhibit the character of the goofy joker and eccentric he often displays in interviews. Nevertheless, one couldn’t criticise DeMarco for a lack of energy during the performance and there was still enough jovial behaviour for it to not be flat or dull. All in all, an enjoyable experience.
Photo Credit: Lou Le Guilloux
Words by Nick Bimson