Live Review: Declan McKenna at The Boileroom, Guildford

Indie’s future star shines in Guildford despite an array of technical difficulties.

It was around this time two years ago that a 16 year old Declan McKenna took to the William’s Green Stage at Glastonbury having won their annual Emerging Talent Competition. The set, alongside the £5,000 winning prize was to change the career of McKenna forever. Since then he has been highly regarded as one of the most in demand acts in music, with his intelligent yet subtle indie vibe creating music that’s both enjoyable and well crafted. Following on from support slots with the likes of Cage The Elephant earlier on this year, there has been a steady steam of politically and socially charged releases that have grabbed the attention of thousands of fans both in the UK and in America. This week saw him return to a sold out crowd at The Boileroom in Guildford, in preparation for a huge summer of festival slots.


Before McKenna took to the stage, an already large crowd had assembled for support act Feet whose Strokes-esque gnarly swagger got the crowd riled up for what was to be a staggeringly hot evening. As the full crowd surrounded the intimate stage, McKenna and his band stepped out to a raucous reception. From the first few bars of opening track Isombard, the venue was alive with energy. Unfortunately, however the energy was cut short due to an issue with the drum kit on stage and whilst the young troubadour restarted the track, it didn’t seem to ignite the fire of the crowd as much.

Step by step, however, McKenna won back the crowd wth his charming attitude and slightly innocent stage persona. Bethlehem and Basic were met with huge cheers from the crowd, who sounded like die-hard followers of the indie singer, such was their knowledge of all of his lyrics. Even unreleased tracks like Make Me Your Queen and Listen To Your Friends were met with unrelinquishable energy which, mixed with the heat that had been building up from a day of staggeringly high temperatures, took the climate of the venue to a new level. Small venues are known for their intimate, more carnal atmospheres and never had a gig felt so feverish than when McKenna blasted through his set. It was a staggeringly unique feeling and something so wonderful that you could only ever experience it at a venue like The Boileroom.

Slight issues with McKenna’s guitar caused a small delay in the set but when he launched into his latest release Humongous, any doubts of whether he was ready for the big stages were thrown out of the window. A track that had only been released less than two weeks ago, gained such a rapport with the audience that it felt as if it had been out for years. One of the greatest receptions however came when The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home began. A track about the frustrations of growing up and more importantly perhaps, a track that stands up for the current generation, the sweat-filled venue was ignited to a new level.


The subtly deep message of Paracetamol rang around The Boileroom towards the end of McKenna’s set after a technical issue with the singer’s microphone had been resolved and to finish with, the ever recognisable intro of first hit Brazil brushed aside all thoughts and sent the sold out crowd into a frenzied party, dancing like no other moment in the set. With the heat causing three of the musicians on stage, McKenna included, to strip off their tops, the screaming joy of dedicated fans reached a new high. With what we thought was the set closer finished, the crowd looked set to leave but the singer had an exclusive surprise still up his sleeve. Performing a cover of Pixies’ Monkey Gone To Heaven, which will be performed during his highly anticipated Glastonbury set, the track showed another light to the artist, one that highlights his versatility and musical influences.

Despite a variety of technical issues, McKenna’s presence throughout the set was staggeringly good and witnessing tracks of both musical and lyrical quality being performed live was something rather special. Taking into account the desert like temperatures inside the venue as well, it’s remarkable that both artist and crowd remained jubilant from beginning to end.



About the venue:

The Boileroom has played host to a huge number of artists from the likes of Ed Sheeran, Foals, Kate Nash, You Me At Six, First Aid Kit, Blossoms, Darlia, Sundara Karma, Spring King, INHEAVEN and The Amazons. The Music Radar UK believes that it’s one of the most important venues in the South East England and London area and is hugely important for emerging alternative and indie artists. There is a constant stream of brilliant gigs announced by the venue each month and the likes of The Big Moon, Estrons and The Magic Gang are all appearing at the venue later on this year. For more information on gigs at The Boileroom, click on the following link:

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