Saturday, April 13

Concert review: Declan McKenna rocks Hollywood with ecstatic performances of ‘Zeros’ tracks

In front of a black-and-white checkered background, Declan McKenna strums his guitar while belting into a standing mic. The English rock artist performed for an enthusiastic crowd at The Fonda Theatre on Thursday. (Jenny Xu/Daily Bruin)

Correction: The original version of this article’s infobox incorrectly stated Declan McKenna performed at The Fonda Theater on Sept. 30. In fact, he performed at The Fonda Theater on Sept. 29.

“Declan McKenna”

The Fonda Theatre

Sept. 29

This post was updated Oct. 9 at 3:18 p.m.

Declan McKenna is anything but a zero.

The British indie rocker headlined The Fonda Theatre in Hollywood on Thursday night. Touring his second studio album, “Zeros,” McKenna balanced out his set list with fan favorites from his 2017 debut record, “What Do You Think About the Car?” As he bolstered his bold showmanship with impassioned vocals and deft guitar playing, he deeply satisfied an already dedicated crowd that shouted the lyrics to every single song – down to the stylistic sighs of relief in McKenna’s tracks.

As soon as the theater went pitch black, the audience members shrieked when they heard the first strum of McKenna’s guitar. Vocalizing a crystal-clear snippet of The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends” a capella, the musician was finally visible to the audience when the curtain was drawn and received an incredibly enthusiastic welcome as he waved hello.

[Related: Q&A: Declan McKenna discusses confidence, ’70s influence in sophomore album ‘Zeros]

Donning a ’70s-style brown jumpsuit reminiscent of the aforementioned rock band, McKenna opened with “Beautiful Faces” on a glittery gold guitar, during which the audience understood to “lift your hands up” along with him when he sang the lyric. Enraptured in the song, he didn’t even flinch when the mic stand unexpectedly swung out of place, and he simply bowed his neck down to sing into the mic – like any professional would. He was rewarded as such when given his first flower bouquet of the night right after the song ended.

For the majority of his rainbow-lit set, McKenna stuck to what he knows best: delivering commanding vocals and unabashedly playing his guitar all over the stage. Even though he fell into this back-and-forth pattern of actions as his set list followed suit by dipping between high-energy rock anthems and groovier ballads, he more than maintained audience engagement with a fervent musical performance and a dynamic stage presence, sassily posing with his hands on his hips and jumping with childlike excitement on the beat.

Though he scarcely spoke to the crowd directly, this was easily forgiven by the singer’s impressive flexibility, as he switched out his guitars on almost every track with no hang-ups whatsoever between songs. While most of his sung discography highlighted his resonant lower register, his effortless delivery of the suspended high notes in “Make Me Your Queen,” “Emily” and “You Better Believe!!!” were a thrilling change of sound for the crowd.

The audience also took immense pleasure in his zany behavior, from wearing his own headband antennae and orange bucket hat to taking off his shoe and holding it up as a phone – all in the course of “Isombard” and “You Better Believe!!!” McKenna periodically drank from his White Claw, and fans grew even more joyful when he unexpectedly jumped into the pit and sang his way through the first row.

McKenna finally broke his set up and almost broke himself when he tripped getting onto the elevated platform onstage, but played it off to passionately perform the David Bowie-like rock ballad “Be an Astronaut” on the keyboard. He further demonstrated his musical prowess by simultaneously playing the keys with one hand and strumming his band member’s guitar with the other.

Falling to his knees at the bridge, his hands gripping the microphone as if he were praying, and reaching his hand out to the heavens, he teased fans when he took a pair of shoes and bowed with them as though that was the end. But fans knew better when he returned soon after for a five-song encore, playing his biggest hits “Why Do You Feel So Down?” and “Brazil.”

Lit by orange, gold lighting, McKenna waves his mic towards the crowd. Through his set, the singer-songwriter performed tracks from his sophomore album "Zeroes" and his 2017 debut, “What Do You Think About the Car?.”(Jenny Xu/Daily Bruin).
Lit by orange-gold lighting, McKenna waves his mic toward the crowd. In his set, the singer-songwriter performed tracks from his sophomore album, “Zeros,” and his 2017 debut, “What Do You Think About the Car?” (Jenny Xu/Daily Bruin)

[Related: Wallows delivers slick visuals, dazzling performance in hometown show]

For a truly proper rock-and-roll finale, McKenna brilliantly transitioned into “British Bombs” with his United Kingdom flag guitar, appropriately sending him out. During the explosive outro, the artist made the stage his playground as he zipped down the top of his jumpsuit and spun around, performing high kicks and cartwheels before flinging himself and the mic stand to the ground. He then threw his towel to the crowd and gave his thanks by kissing an absolutely electrified audience goodbye.

On the accelerator from start to finish, Declan McKenna left fans in a state of rapture, proving he most definitely has “The Key to Life on Earth.”

Arts editor

Jones is the 2022-2023 Arts editor. She was previously an Arts staff writer from 2021-2022. She is a fourth-year psychology student from Las Vegas.

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