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Mac DeMarco - Kentish Town Forum, London 25/11/14

01 December 2014, 08:57 | Written by Thomas Hannan

"This is a song for the young men. I think there are some young men out there."

Mac Demarco seems as taken aback by the fresh facedness of tonight's crowd as I am. Whereas each time prior to this I've had the pleasure of seeing him play, folks have managed at most an appreciative shuffle in reaction to the oft-overlooked delicate guitar work and a wry smile at the band's trademark goofball humour, tonight's young assembling throb and swirl like that footage of Limp Bizkit playing Woodstock.

For numerous reasons, Mac Demarco tonight sounds nothing like he does on his three fine records. One thing that's down to is the Forum's infuriatingly muddy sound, dulling all the delicacy of his finest songs with a muddied mix that does him no favours. The other main reason for the difference is the enthusiasm level of the crowd of off-their-face, hero-worshipping kids he's performing to. Quite understandably given their rampant energy levels, he plays not the singer songwriter, but the guy at the back of the football crowd leading the sing-alongs. Many of these songs barely require his vocals at all, such are the levels at which they're communally bellowed back at him.

What's strangest about this isn't that these songs are receiving such a level of mass acceptance - they're excellent, and they deserve it - but that they're actually really weird songs. Listen to "Passing Out Pieces", the lead single from this year's Salad Days. It's a total dirge, its chorus drenched in woozy synths, it's melody far from the strongest in Demarco's canon. But it's treated like an anthem. Nothing wrong with that, sure. But there's plenty to it that's weird, not to mention encouraging.

The set focuses on the synth-heavy, punch drunk vibe of Salad Days, but peaks when it dips in to material from its predecessor 2. If only the sound system would allow it, "Ode to Viceroy" would have been majestic, but the increased tempo of "Freaking Out the Neighbourhood" has it fare better, and though he's a million miles ahead as a songwriter from where he was in the days of "Rock and Roll Nightclub", that early gem still shines in a set that's slightly too muddy to enjoy purely for its musical merit.

Yet there's so much fun to be had at a gig like this that the music almost seems secondary. That's a shame, in a way, but hey - those great records still sound the same, even if the gigs don't follow suit. There are kids being thrown out for crowd surfing and smoking indoors, a table of people on stage that could either be a gathering of major label execs he's trying to seduce or a narcotics anonymous meeting, and enough in the way of ridiculous cover versions (the theme from "Top Gun", Metallica's "Enter Sandman") to make only the biggest Grinch not muster a tiny smirk.

Goofing aside though, Demarco does seem to be maturing at a rate not matched by his audience, who seem to be going the other way. The songs are slower, subtler, sultrier. But his crowd are more and more drunk, and he gives them the show they - if not necessarily I - clearly crave. Even the gentle acoustic croon of "Together" gets the power ballad treatment, transformed in to a tune in which Demarco can flamboyantly dive in to the crowd rather than one which sounds like it was recorded in to a Dictaphone while trying to not wake nearby parents. Before the stage dive though, Demarco wisely takes his shoes off (it's not his first time). See? Maturing. Slightly.

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