Mac DeMarcoHarvest Sun @ Mountford Hall 28/11/19
MAC DEMARCO remains the king on campus. It’s a title he’s held here for two years since he last bowled over Mountford Hall with his enduring charm. The wide-eyed hysteria buzzing around the university grounds only reaffirms this, well before his inimitable tremolo twang has coursed through the student’s union.
Since his last appearance on this very stage, Mac’s musical output has somewhat wandered a new path. Somewhere quieter and less frantic. Conducting the crowd, hands first to the left, then the right, bobbing between the droplets of synth on On The Level, his entrance is at odds with the rocking chair calm of Here Comes The Cowboy – his most recent release. Even when here last, in support of This Old Dog, his records were branching away from the woozy tape-deck haze that had allured his now adoring fanbase. And yet, while the Canadian songwriter has retreated to the comfort of his LA home studio in recent years – a setting that’s undoubtedly enhanced the hushed, more personal direction – he still wears the on stage clothes of efforts two and three, II and Salad Days; the chain-smoking oddball with the most addictive guitar licks in town. It’s evidently the Mac the crowd wants to see. It’s the one they get, for the most part, albeit slightly better behaved than his track record would suggest. Cooking Up Something Good, Chamber Of Reflection and Freaking Out The Neighbourhood are near inaudible, such is the chorus of almost 2,000 people beating him to every word.
Tracing the footsteps of his contemporary character on record, you wonder if the show is weighted how he’d like, now he’s five albums into his career. More so with a recent, but no less endearing, swerve in songcraft. Slower jams Still Beating and Nobody are dutifully played, but their unrushed beauty is liberally taken as short intermission by most. The swelling energy and attention is saved for the nicotine rush of Ode To Viceroy. New funk jam Choo Choo, a groove-laden evolution of his Rock And Roll Night Club era, just about keeps it all on track in a run of newer songs.
Tossing the microphone around the stage, filling the spaces in the setlist with schoolyard jokes, the Mac persona still fits the 29-year-old performer front and centre. Not so much like a suited, booted and slicked back Alex Turner being forced to pop his collar and recall distant memories of South Yorkshire teen discos. Instead, Mac, visibly, still slots in to his lineage, even if his more contemporary efforts on stage tonight seem to drift into the perspiration lining the ceiling. But maybe that’s the point in these shows: Mac’s sought to move on musically, like all maturing musicians would, yet, the joyous community so taken by his earlier records still remains. Maybe it’s even grown, such are the numbers he holds in his palm as Still Together reaches its harmonious climax. His music and personality endure in their ability to bring masses of people together. To still offer this out, when musical interests have likely sailed forward, perhaps signals his need for this community, too. Judging by the admiration shared on both sides of the stage, it would seem short-sighted to give it up now. Perhaps the artist puts it best: “Oh mama, actin’ like my life’s already over / Oh dear, act your age and try another year”. See you at the Uni reunion in two years, Mac.