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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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Photo courtesy of Genius

Small stage, big energy: Declan McKenna performs at Summerfest 2023

McKenna graced the American Family Insurances House’s stage at Summerfest on June 22 prior to his later performance in the American Family Insurance Amphitheater that same day, with powerful vocals and humble talent. McKenna’s performance reasserted his status as a hidden gem performer who connects to fans through a more personal style and stood as a reminder that strong musicianship is alive and well in the music industry — and something fans will wait an hour and a half in the sun for.

Known for his song “Brazil” from his debut album “What Do You Think About the Car” as well as tracks like “Key to Life on Earth” and “Be an Astronaut” from his studio album “Zeros,” the British musician sparked tangible and intense excitement from his audience as his band shuffled into the quaint venue.

Such a stage might not have worked for other headliners at this year’s Summerfest, but the close proximity McKenna shared with his listeners made his personal and relatable lyrics even more heartfelt and enjoyable.

His band played a short but vibrant acoustic set list featuring classics like “Brazil” and “British Bombs.” Energy was high both on stage and in the crowd as McKenna’s sound was authentic and filled the house, maintaining the down-to-earth yet charismatic nature his songs are known for.

Fans appreciate McKenna’s sound for his exploration into heavy topics like mental health and current events, including climate change, poverty and British involvement in the Middle East. McKenna approaches those topics with an adolescent hopelessness but also with the optimism and progressive spirit he shares with his fans.

An acoustic set list further amplified McKenna’s youthful, strong vocals and the cohesion between him and his band. Their connection was palpable and added to the performance’s intimate vibe. There was even unexpected flute playing.

Although McKenna is touring North America throughout 2023, no venue may be as intimate and personal to fans as his time here at Summerfest. Even if this performance wasn't rich in McKenna’s flashy, vibrant fashion, it captured the meaning and likeability of his music.

The American Family Insurance House may be a small venue — McKenna even noted in a brief Q&A that he hasn't played anything like it before. But his performance was still an electric, captivating experience worth catching at this year's Summerfest.

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