Mac’s back, baby. The Canadian flannel shirt magnet played his first Brighton show since 2014 at The Dome on 27 November, and things got a little bit…weird.
It’s immediately clear he’s on top form. The sound, bolstered with the help of a live band, easily filling the venue. Opener ‘On The Level’ sounds suitably orchestral, with a choir of 1800 fans singing along to every word.
In case you forgot who you were seeing, this touching opener is interspersed with maniacal laughter from Mac, and the crack of a beer can being opened on stage. Weird laughter is only the start of the off-kilter antics. Throughout the show Mac pauses to point out that part of the venue looks like Darth Vader’s helmet, the band discuss their dinner (clam chowder at upmarket restaurant Riddle & Finns, which goes to show they aren’t exactly slumming it out here) and the guitarist sings a segment from Seal’s ‘Kiss From a Rose’.
The crowning glory of the trademark Mac Demarco experience is the saga of “Ernst” the drummer. Ernst is apparently German and filling in on the drums, but takes to the mic to tell the audience how much he hates the UK. Mac swiftly calls for the audience to join in a pantomime chant of “Fuck you Ernst!” before the bassist reveals that it isn’t the real Ernst at all, it’s…an imposter! Completely ridiculous, but also completely hilarious.
None of this would matter, however, if the songs didn’t stand up live. Luckily this isn’t an issue, no matter how many cans of Stella Artois Mac drinks, or how silly the band behave between songs, the tracks themselves sound sublime. Showmanship and songmanship in equal measure.
As Mac tells the audience he only has three songs left they look heartbroken, but are swiftly placated by the triple bill of ‘My Kind of Woman’, ‘Chamber of Reflection’ and ‘Together’. With 20 minutes of the set left, it seems obvious that an encore is imminent.
Never being one for following convention, Mac instead hands the mic back to Ernst.
“I’m the real Ernst again!” he shouts, in an American accent. “I want to lead you all in a sing-song” he follows up, before the band launch into Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Under the Bridge’. After ‘Under the Bridge’ Mac takes back the mic and the band play Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’ (with replacement lyrics about ordering a sandwich), Ernst then performs half of 50 Cent’s ‘In Da Club’, in case the set hadn’t been surreal enough already.
Mac finishes off with a cover of ‘I’m Henry VIII, I Am’, the first record he liked as a kid. Each verse is sung at a different speed, and the last verse is performed in the style of The Police, because at this point, why not? A final moment of sincerity is had in the form of encore “Watching Him Fade Away”, before the house lights come up and the venue empties out.
Nearly ending a set by having the drummer sing half of a 50 Cent song and then butchering a track by Herman’s Hermits would probably be considered sacrilege at most gigs. But with Mac Demarco, it’s pretty much part of the appeal.