If Mac Demarco’s reputation as indie’s chilliest bad boy has overshadowed his latest LP, Here Comes the Cowboy, Demarco’s set at RBC Echo Beach on Tuesday complicated matters further and in mesmerizing fashion. The disparity between Demarco’s defining tropes, his sedately languid spaghetti guitar and normcore persona, and his notoriously immature onstage antics has served as a focal point of his draw for seven years now, and his current set maximizes and widens that distance considerably.
Demarco’s modus operandi of the past three years has undeniably been to slow things down; the drinking is lighter, the interviews more meditative, and the albums quieter. Where Mac’s occasionally frustrating recent interest in minimal, downtempo arrangements sometimes falls somewhere short of the reach on record, however, his dedication to the project in the live setting lends a surprising defiance to his already effortless cool. At a mature 29 years of age, Demarco seems bent on defying and subverting his fans’ thirst for the electric Slip N’ Slide of 2014’s generation-defining Salad Days, choosing instead to showcase his very slowest and unassuming output.
Rather than falling flat as an indulgent and misjudged overestimation of his audience’s patience, though, Demarco and company lulled the crowd into beautiful submission over nearly two hours of pristine, elegantly restrained musicianship. Bar the odd crowd-pleaser – the early-set jolt of ‘Salad Days,’ the cathartic sleaze of ‘Ode to Viceroy,’ and the innocent waggishness of ‘Rock and Roll Night Club’ – Mac and company remained steadfastly faithful to the hushed study in simplicity of Here Comes the Cowboy. Demarco’s devotees noticeably mirrored the pace, prompting the inimitably mellow messiah to comment, “you guys are mellow, I like that.”
It was Demarco’s banter between songs that highlighted just how central humor is to the set. Heightened by a palpable chemistry with guitarist Andy White, all the ironies, antics, handstands, summersaults, and rapid-fire quips revealed themselves as fundamental to the Mac Demarco experience. An extended encore consisting of a seemingly endless crotch-rock guitar solo followed by a surreal medley of Kansas, Herman’s Hermits-gone-punk, Misfits, and Metallica covers ended the set with side-splittingly off-brand self-indulgence, further convincing devotees of Mac’s paradoxical torch-singer-cum-slapstick-comic status.
In a final act of defiance, Demarco tossed his stand-in rental Stratocaster into the mass of tamed fans; he had broken his own, his favourite, the night before. Now seemingly at peace with the prospect of moving forward without the favoured weapon of his twenties, a wiser Mac Demarco bid farewell to his mellow army. He was mellow too, and we liked that.
Check out Mac Demarco’s remaining tour dates here