Mac Demarco, Live at Vicar Street, Dublin, 22nd November 2017
Following the release of 2015’s magnificent ‘Another One’, Mac Demarco commented that he had bought several thousand pounds worth of synthesisers.
For better or worse (we’re gonna go with better), while this year’s ‘This Old Dog’ wasn’t the leftfield electro effort that this news might’ve pointed towards. However, while the acoustic-driven guidebook lullabies like No Other Heart – which have become Demarco’s calling card over the years formed the basis of his most it did possess some simmering synthwork.
Simple yet upbeat, elegant and meaningful, ‘This Old Dog’ was packed with more hooks than a fisherman’s rod and a voice well worth the hype that surrounded the LP.
Its most daring track, On the Level was also its standout. Tonight, it kicks off proceedings following a humorous pre-fight like skit which welcomed Demarco and band onstage. On the Level finds Demarco channelling his innermost Roy Ayers. Sultry and capacious, it’s an interesting choice of track to lay out your stall with. But it instantly marked this show out as one that could bring ecstasy and timelessness in equal measure, enamouring the crowd to Demarco and his goofy charm from the get go.
Demarco has a winning formula of his own creation that’s been refined through the years, one which is like no other, however you can’t help but wonder what an album where he deployed the falsetto full time and ventured head first onto the soul train would sound like.
Salad Days jangling refrain about being past your pprime lifts the crowd. Surprisingly though, for somebody who’s built a reputation for raucous live performances, it’s the slower moments which really capture the crowd.
My Kind of Woman is a sweet ode to his longtime girlfriend. And slowed down for the occasion, the emotion from the song from 2012’s ‘2’-hits home to each one of the adoring fans below. Still Together meanwhile further reinforces this claim and proves to be a splendid closing track to the main part of his set. A truly captivating finish.
In fact, it’s amazing how well-received older singalongs such as Rock and Roll Nightclub and Cookin Up Something Good still are. And a testament to the 27-year-old’s enduring musicality.
It would be remiss not to mention the delivery of songs from the new album. Especially considering its darker, inward themes of parental negligence and the meaning attached to the father in question (Moonlight on the River, Watching Him Fade Away) which would inevitably come with discovering of his illness.
The jury’s out on the spread out rendition of the titular My Old Man. One could argue that it came across as fractured and stripped of its tightness and rhythm. It was a worthy experiment nonetheless. But it’s Moonlight… and proper closer, Watching Him Fade Away that really steal the show.
Moonlight…-much in the same way that One Man, No City has for Parquet Courts-grants Demarco something which he didn’t contain in his canon before; the + 7 minute ruminative ballad crescendos into an echo chamber of frenetic but restrained clatter of whorls and drumming with a steady chord progression driving it through it. Aaand…if you’re still with us, one of the Canadian’s best pieces of work to date.
Watching Him Fade Away meanwhile stops the clocks for a couple of minutes, putting the preceding hour and a half into perspective and grounding the audience to their knees (quite literally) in the process by asking, “what happens when your father who’s been absent for most of your life could be about to depart for good?” And trying to make sense of the feelings of sadness associated with that.
One of the most important things to take away from ‘This Old Dog’-and something which he alludes to himself in the press release-is that beyond the goofiness, the chillness or whatever other host of adjectives you want to attach to the guy, there is a realness. One that far extends the viral personality that he’s garnered. And in songs like Moonlight…, perhaps some people are becoming more aware of that.
This wasn’t to say the night wasn’t loose and fun. But there’s an added sense of vulnerability for all to see now. And this shouldn’t be underestimated. It can’t be easy to draw attention to that considering earlier performances have consisted of playing with a drumstick up your arse for example.
Elsewhere there’s a slapstick cover of Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror. And a well-balanced interaction with the crowd to boot. Credit should be handed to his bandmembers too. They put in a stellar shift. If there was to be one let-down it would be the absence of Passing Out Pieces. With issues of authenticity vs privacy coming to the fore now more than ever-particularly in Demarco’s sphere-it would have been fantastic to engage with that. But perhaps it didn’t suit the set.
Overall though, a triumph. And one which we hope’ll be followed up with something soon.
Now, if you’re back at Workman’s again, Mac, can we please do a duet of Promiscuous by Nelly Furtado and Timbaland on karaoke night?!