Live Review: Mac DeMarco at Chicago’s Empty Bottle (4/2)

    So look: Mac DeMarco is funny as hell and was born for the spotlight. No shit, right? Anyone who happened to catch one of his breakout performances last year (like his perfect afternoon set at Pitchfork Festival) already knows this and probably understands how this quality is inseparable from his music. His flamboyant personality, more than the unmistakable tendencies of his sound, commands the best of his work.

    But, did you ever have a new kid in your high school who immediately revealed himself to be a natural class clown – not just funny, but charismatic, talented, endearingly immature – and made a million friends in his first week? But then, eventually, a few too many started eating out of his hand so readily that it messed with his confidence a little since he also wasn’t an egomaniacal sociopath?

    DeMarco’s current Salad Days tour might be headed the way of the new kid. Already, we know the songwriter’s third LP is his make-or-break moment and that he’s not taking the opportunity lightly, delivering songs far more serious and personal than he’s ever made. It’s a hell of a career adjustment for a 20ish-year-old potty mouth who wants to be appreciated for the right reasons – just ask Earl Sweatshirt – and it can be made that much more difficult by doubts over whether that dearly appreciated fanbase will be ready for the transition, too.



    Which is not to say that his second of two performances at The Empty Bottle on Wednesday was anything short of great – actually, it was fantastic. “Chamber of Reflection” was a total dream of synth swooshes, DeMarco screamed demons out of his chest on “I’m a Man”, all the fan favorites off 2 drew their expected revved-up reactions, and he even managed to have some fun by the end with a venue-circumventing crowd surf during the always-adorable closer “Still Together” and by faux-berating the whole crowd and demanding they “kneel for Neil” (everybody complied) for their cover of Young’s “Unknown Legend”.

    It’s just, you can sense DeMarco is over the abundant public adoration of his jokester persona, while still wise enough to know that the worst thing he can do is take it for granted. DeMarco’s familiar, full-faced beams that used to always greet his crowds’ catcalls were mostly reduced to appreciative-but-labored smiles under eyes that looked just spent.

    Then again, two-a-days during a demanding tour aren’t exactly conducive to continuous full-faced beaming. That’s a tough spot, and maybe the best thing to do is to just play the shit out of the new songs, punch the clock every night, smile here and there, and not feel pressured into faking total sunshine all the time. And, occasionally, throw in a cheap one-liner like his mumbled introduction to “Chamber” for old times:


    “This song is about…” [air is sucked out of room] “…um…Sheryl Crow’s butt cheeks.” [ROARING laughter].

    Salad Days
    The Stars Keep on Calling My Name
    Treat Her Better
    Cooking up Something Good
    Rock and Roll Nightclub
    Let Her Go
    I’m a Man
    Passing Out Pieces
    Let My Baby Stay
    Ode to Viceroy (Smoke Over Water intro)
    Freaking Out the Neighborhood
    Chamber of Reflection
    Still Together
    Wicked Game (Chris Isaac cover)
    Unknown Legend (Neil Young cover)