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Heavy On The Humour: Mac Demarco, Live in London

19 November 2017, 22:32 | Written by John Bell

The revelry and raucous humour which Mac Demarco brings to his live shows is by now not shocking but expected.

Whilst his crowds are happy to watch in bewilderment —and more often than not, youthful awe—the 27-year-old jokester and his wavy cohort are known to finish several bottles of hard liquor onstage whilst improvising comedic and elongated medleys of early '00s ballads such as Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles”. At this year’s Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona, for instance, his drummer performed stark naked, whilst Mac himself ended standing on his amp almost as scantily-clad, burning his pubes and armpit hair with his Viceroy. For a more extreme example, it doesn’t take much Googling to find him covering U2’s “Beautiful Day” whilst sticking a drumstick up his ass.

It would be genuinely hard to find another character who could pull acts like this off in such a priceless and endearing way, if you could ever apply such words to watching a grown man insert a drumstick into his rectum. Unfortunately though, his Friday performance at The Coronet—the first of his three night residency at the intimate South London venue—ultimately breaks down into kind of irritating and sloppy chaos, wasting time which would have been better spent with his valuable catalogue of songs.

Admittedly, as he enters the stage with his likely-lad grin, he does look surprisingly healthy and trim given the antics of his seemingly endless tour this summer, and spirits are high with the opener “On The Level”. Indeed, throughout most of the performance Mac and Co. are on point, giving the likes of “Salad Days” and “The Stars Keep On Calling My Name” all the gusto they need. The '90s jazz-pop rendition of “My Old Man”, from this year's This Old Dog, is well translated, and the piano solo of “Dreams From Yesterday” is nothing but gorgeous.

When the opening riff of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s unmistakable “Sweet Home Alabama” is played by guitarist Andrew James White for the first time, it is pretty damn funny, especially with Mac’s ad-libs that sound something like “Brick Lane’s got the bagel” in place of “Big wheels keep on turning”. It’s even kind of funny for the next few times, but it signals that the band are becoming a little worse for wear, and the stage is becoming a bit of a free-for-all. Again, bassist Jon Lent’s rant on English food—‘all you eat is mushy peas’—is funny at first but after a few minutes hearty laughs turn to awkward smiles, the ones you’d aim at a drunk colleague at the work Christmas party. Having said that, the resulting stupor actually works well for the kaleidoscopic jam-outs of “Moonlight On The River” and “Chamber Of Reflection”.

Importantly, the inherent charm of Mac’s songs is still there tonight, but as they pause halfway through closer “Still Together” to waddle around and pull contorted faces for what seems like an eternity, shit-shredding and covering the likes of The La’s “There She Goes” and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under The Bridge” in a kind of surrealist-troll, it's unfortunate that much of the humour that adds to them is overbaked and lost.

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