On a drab, cold and rather miserable Tuesday night, Getintothis’ Paul Riley braved a trip to Studio 2 and was rewarded with a show-stealing set by Declan McKenna.
As a chronically lazy music listener, this writer finds it very useful to volunteer, from time to time, for shows by artists that are completely new to him. The Studio 2 shows run by I Love Live Events have proved to be a rather enlightening and heartening experience so far. On a previous date, we were treated to an explosively memorable performance from La Shark. This time round, it was the turn of Lisbon and fresh-faced wunderkind Declan McKenna.
First up, however, were a very young Merseyside act by the name of Throwback Thursday. I Love Live seem to be rather enamoured of the trick of putting on fledgling, Liverpool-based bands in the opening slot. We heartily agree with this tactic; not only does it give tomorrow’s talent the opportunity to cut their teeth in a great venue, but it also gives a much-needed boost to the crowd numbers for the intrepid touring bands who are optimistic enough to brave Tuesday night shows.
Throwback Thursday did themselves proud, and the audience they brought certainly added to the vibe for the evening. On a side note, however… If you go to a show to watch your mates’ band open the night, then GIT would like to humbly offer one small tidbit of advice. Once the band you come to see have finished, either kindly shut the fuck up during the other bands, or fuck off somewhere else.
Passive-aggressive grumbling out of the way, we will go back to what we came to listen to – the music.
Headliners for the evening were Lisbon, who leaned heavily toward the standard indie rock template, with, if we’re not mistaken, some fairly substantial backing tracks. We’re not saying that every sound produced by a band has to be live, far from it, but beyond a point, the use of ‘invisible musicians’ gets a little offputting.
Three songs into their set, Lisbon‘s lead vocalist moved over to piano, and the set picked up appreciably. The band are definitely a tight outfit who work a crowd well, but could do with a bit more emphasis on the songwriting and arrangement to really strike a chord with their audiences.
The runaway show-stealer of the evening was Declan McKenna and band. We say ‘and band’, because the joy of this performance came undoubtedly from the interplay between all four of the musicians on the stage. McKenna may be the writer and arranger, but make no mistake, his songs take on a new dimension when seen in the live setting.
Firstly, and a staple for any band of a more traditional setup, one must have a solid rhythm section. This was one of the best we have seen in a long while, particularly for such a young group of performers. Both drum and bass parts were tastefully restrained, at times bordering on plodding, but remaining just the right side of simple. Their solid and compellingly simplistic parts worked together to create a solid base for the layers of guitar, electric noises and vocals.
A healthy selection of synths (one per member if you count the drummer’s sample pad) added to a lo-fi, unpretentious sound that was reminiscent of Evan Dando, The Cribs and Ryan Adams. The songs were full to bursting with charmingly considered arrangements and striking vocal narratives that both hinted at a huge range of influences.
Looking away from the stage, it seemed that the performers should be much older than they were – both in terms of their playing, and McKenna‘s songwriting, there seemed to be an almost unnatural amount of poise and composure. Much has already been written about McKenna‘s uncanny and stratospheric rise in the last year or so, and having seen this band in the flesh, we can say that the buzz is justified. We will watch their development with interest.
Photos by Getintothis’ Chris Flack