In the middle of a 3 night residency at London’s Coronet, Mac Demarco gives a packed crowd exactly what they want: a light-hearted performance awash with puerile jokes, playful covers and an occasional nod to a growing back catalogue of exceptionally well written songs.
You see Mac Demarco is a deft songwriter; a multi-instrumentalist with talent that you’d kill to have. His voice is impressive, in spite of his considerable cigarette intake, and this shines through on hazy tunes like ‘Ode to Viceroy’, on synth-laden gems such as ‘Chamber of Reflection’, and more recently through the soft introspection shown on ‘My Old Man’ and ‘Still Beating’.
The shift on 2017’s This Old Dog paints Mac Demarco as a maturing songwriter capable of producing sincere, honest and poignant tracks in a way unbecoming of the poster kid for layabout hipsters.
Based on tonight’s performance, it seems that it may take some time for his live show to catch up with the unassuming maturity of these hits. Of course, performance needn’t, and shouldn’t be a chore, but much of his best songs are overshadowed by protracted banter and worn out jokes. Something funny winds on for ten minutes at a time, breaking the performance into small sections and turning a short entertaining respite into a stalemate which can wear thin on the patience.
Saturday night is off to a flying start with opener 'On the Level', before the synth-keys are switched up for the delicious guitar licks of 'Salad Days' and 'No Other Heart' as the band swigs their beers.
There’s a notable turning point though, when someone from the crowd throws Mac a Tesco Meal Deal sandwich and a packet of crisps. The wheels begin to come off.
I’m loathe to mention the famous gig where Mac shoved a drumstick up his own arse on stage, but it’s important, because you can’t help feel that that while his talent deserves to sell this venue out three times over, it is this notoriety that has put him on the radar, and become part and parcel of what this crowd expects from him.
Mac and his band veer from playing through their hazy blend of indie rock and synth pop, and instead become distracted, almost turning the night into a jam session which just so happens to be shared by over 2,500 people.
The biggest cheer of the night, for an established headline-act, is for him eating a sandwich. Though he has had 5 full releases, it’s easy for Mac to relax and dine out on this reputation as a goofball. This persona is infectious and part of his charm, but he needs to make sure doesn’t work to the detriment of his music.
Following his crisp-eating, he plays ‘This Old Dog’, and the response to what is one of his most endearing heart-on-the-sleeve numbers, pales in comparison to his eating a cheap snack. It’s tenderly reflective, but the impact on the young dungaree-cloaked crowd is minimal.
At this stage, Mac asks the lighting technician to change the lights. He’s ignored – and you can’t help feel like that’s quite an apt response, as if to say, ‘you needn’t worry about your performance Mac, just have a laugh.”
From here, he plays a mash-up, combining sections of ‘Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire’, ‘Duelling Banjos’, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, ‘ Still DRE’, ‘In Da Club’, ‘The Way It Is’. Even in doing so, he shows off an impressively high vocal range, but it’s all a joke. This teenage band practice gets bigger cheers than any of Mac’s own songs.
There are moments of beauty nevertheless. With ‘Cooking Up Something Good’ and ‘Freaking out the Neighbourhood’ acting as particular highlights, meeting the crowd in the middle between up-tempo jauntiness, while Mac is able to deliver his own work with more conviction than any cover.
Towards the end of the night, Mac comments, “I hope you guys are having fun, because I think we’re having a bit too much fun up here.”
The two aren’t mutually exclusive. The crowd are in raptures. But that’s not to say that Mac isn’t taking his position too flippantly when performing with his full band. Once the scene moves on, Mac will still be a hugely talented songwriter, but let’s hope he hasn’t so firmly made being a goofball his particular brand – because with such skill, it needn’t be.