There is a sense of wonderful unpredictability that one gets at a Mac DeMarco show. The Canadian singer-songwriter appears to have studied at the Iggy Pop School of stage performance and his antics at previous shows are the stuff of music blog dreams (his set at this year’s Primavera a particular highlight). Tonight’s show doesn’t descend into such freewheeling madness, but there is a playful feeling of joyful abandon throughout that marks out the gig as unique amongst the usual po-faced fare.
The sold out crowd rammed into Vicar Street tonight look as though they’ve wandered in from the set of Richard Linklater’s Slacker. Over the course of the past half a decade, DeMarco has developed a dedicated cult following and many of those in attendance tonight could well be auditioning to be Mac’s stunt double. Flannel shirts and baseball caps are the hallmarks of Mac’s self-coined “bum chic” style and there are plenty of disciples here tonight.
Strutting onstage a little later than expected, Mac and his band are treated to a thunderous reception. Launching straight into a spacey ‘On the Level’ with its hypnotic guitar line. Next up is an early outing for ‘Salad Days’ that has the crowd singing its wordless refrain back at him note for note. From here on in, Mac has the crowd in the palm of his hand as he rattles through one jangly indie pop gem after another.
‘Ode to Viceroy’, Mac’s chiming paean to his favourite cigarettes has plenty of the audience flouting smoking bans and tossing their spare smokes towards the stage. Meanwhile, ‘Freaking out the Neighbourhood’ is beefed up and heavier in its live incarnation with the crowd howling along with its riff.
While Mac seems to be adjusting somewhat toward maturity, he still has moments for the unexpected. An impromptu cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’ has the crowd chuckling and singing along. In between songs, his off-the-cuff stage banter is as entertaining and madcap as ever.
‘My Kind of Woman’ is stripped down to its achingly romantic bare bones and the crowd sways along to its lilting melody. A number of songs from This Old Dog, Mac’s most recent effort, are also given the same treatment and the slower pace suits Mac, allowing the strength of the songwriting to shine through.
Returning for an encore, Mac instructs the crowd to get sit down on the floor as he performs a lovely ‘Watching Him Fade Away’, helping the crowd slowly come down from the rowdiness of the past hour and a half. “Real recognise real,” he says before dropping the mic, leaving everyone in the place with a smile on their faces. It’s hard to tell if he is indeed maturing or is simply a tad hungover from last night’s gig. Either way, with songs this good, no one is complaining.