British singer-songwriter Declan McKenna made everyone feel like his valentine with his Feb. 14 show at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Va. “I’m here to steal your hearts this Valentine’s Day. And I’ve got more crappy lines like that prepared,” McKenna said.
A quirky, 19-year-old musician from London, McKenna truly did steal the crowd’s hearts with his boyish demeanor, throwing flowers into the crowd and serenading the audience throughout the performance.
McKenna began his set with the hit, “The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home” off of his 2017 debut album, “What Do You Think About the Car?” The song started off slow, building up to a chorus that set the perfect mood for swaying and dancing and establishing the casual vibe that would continue for the rest of the concert.
McKenna’s cover of David Bowie’s “Valentine’s Day” was a particular highlight of the night. “I just kind of wanted an excuse to play it because it’s one of my favorite songs of all time. But it’s called Valentine’s Day and it’s by David Bowie,” McKenna said. The cover was phenomenal, doing justice to the original track.
McKenna continued to make cheesy, romance-themed comments throughout the set, fooling around with the crowd and fostering an inviting environment. At one point, an audience member yelled, “Will you be my valentine?”
“I’m everyone’s valentine because this is what you’ve all decided to do on Valentine’s Day,” McKenna responded. He created a special performance for the holiday, bringing out flowers and pink balloons to throw into the crowd.
The crowd’s energy picked up halfway through the set when McKenna played the upbeat hit, “Why Do You Feel So Down?” Even the members of the audience who had just been swaying and standing started jumping and singing along. McKenna stood up on the amplifier on stage, bopping around and dancing to the beat. It was clear he was genuinely enjoying the performance.
McKenna was extraordinarily carefree throughout the night: His chill demeanor reflected his young age. He came out in a dress with fluffed up, messy hair and glitter all over his face. When at one point someone in the crowd screamed, “Your hair’s so fluffed!” McKenna responded, “Yeah, it’s — it’s so — I don’t really know — voluptuous these days.” The interactions with the crowd made the entire performance intimate and engaging.
Jammin’ Java’s venue contributed to the intimate concert experience. The coffee shop-bar-hybrid was the perfect environment for McKenna’s low-key, alternative stylings. There were, at maximum, only a few hundred people in the venue, and the singer even commented on how nice it was to play in such a cozy space.
McKenna closed the set with his two most popular songs, “Brazil” and “Listen to Your Friends.” The songs were the perfect ending to the concert, as every casual fan in the audience knew their lyrics. The two songs brought the entire crowd together in the final moments of the set.
Because he only has one studio album out, the concert was only about an hour long. However, the brevity was to be expected, and McKenna made up for the show’s length with over-the-top energy.
McKenna is blowing up fast, and he presents a cool, rock star demeanor. While his music also has a pop vibe, it has the potential to mature into something more alternative and interesting. Even for those who are not fans of alternative pop music, McKenna is worth seeing just for his performance and charisma.