Returning to the UK after his stop-off at the 02 Brixton in May, Mac DeMarco crashes back into London with three nights at Elephant & Castle’s Coronet.
First things first: even if the set isn’t so good, Mac DeMarco will always entertain. The trouble now, it seems, is that since his act has always depended on the sharp contrast between the soft, languid melancholy of his music and the raucous gross-out bacchanalia that characterizes its live performance. So, when it veers too far towards the latter, it loses quite a lot of its charm.
Though his sound has so far proved as addictive as it is accessible, Mac has thus far has set out his stall as a fresh if not nostalgic guardian of modern indie pop. But going to one of his shows and witnessing the sheer amount of teens clad baggie jeans, t-shirt and vans, in an almost senile fashion, one can’t help but wonder if his image is changing from a charming subculture into something almost cartoonish.
Not that this seems to be anything to do with the man himself. An essential part of DeMarco’s appeal is the fact that, for the most part, he strikes us as highly down-to-earth, affable and genuinely funny guy who loves to play and is looking to play heartfelt tunes and rock out while doing it. For the first hour of the show, as Mac reeled off an electic mix of softer new tracks and old favourites like ‘Freaking out the Neighbourhood’ and ‘Ode to Viceroy’, it’s impossible not to be captivated by the tempestuous crowd who know every word.
That is, until we descend into an alienating and self-indulgent encore, in which the last song of the set is drawn out into a cacophonous excess of white noise, heavy drinking and in-jokes between the band. Later on, during the almost sickly-sweet closer of every show ‘Still Together’ is a repeat of the shambolic, if not endearing, lapse into utter incoherence, with the guys trading instruments, personas, and embarking on a series of hit and miss covers. Though the high-point of the latter half had to be drummer Joe McMurray leading his own crowd surf to a cover of ‘Under the Bridge’, it was enough confusion to make one nearly forget the first part of the show. And to top it all off, we had Mac standing aloft on the amp for five minutes before pissing himself.
If DeMarco appears indifferent to his audience, it is understandable. At times it felt as if half the crowd didn’t seem to want to hear most of the set, with some kids moshing and throwing punches even when the acoustic guitars were out. But even so, it makes one miss the times before the zany debauchery become the staple of these performances, especially when now it seems to overshadow his talent. Yet if all we’re left with is a beer and urine-soaked stage and some half-remembered lyrics to The La’s, it makes for an at least memorable night.