After selling out all dates of his 2022 US Tour, Declan McKenna is back in the states as part of his “Big Return” tour which featured a stop at NYC’s Brooklyn Steel. The first of two nights in the big apple, the British indie-rocker did not disappoint with a 15-song setlist.

Opener Eli Smart transported us to a tropical island with his ‘Aloha Soul’ blend of 60’s rock, jazz, and Hawaiian culture. Originally from Kauai, the Hawaiian native now lives across the pond in Liverpool. On tour with a backing band of his closest friends (and grandma!), Eli played through tracks “No Destination” and “Highschool Steady” from his 2021 EP Boonie Town before incorporating singles “Hope I Don’t Fall in Love” and “Midnight Blue.” The 23-year-old also treated the crowd to “Come On, Come On, Come On” and his newest release (which came out that morning) “Fiesta 99.9 FM.”

As I waited for Declan to take the stage, I thought back to his show in the fall (part of the aforementioned 2022 US tour) where I had seen him in a 650 capacity venue – and here he was about to play a venue with a crowd nearly three times that size.

Despite the large crowd, Declan was able to make his show still feel intimate. After opening with “The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home” from his debut album What Do You Think About the Car? followed by “Beautiful Faces” and “You Better Believe!!!” from its follow-up Zeros, Declan slowed it down by putting away his guitar and moving to a raised piano to perform “Be An Astronaut” from the same album.

As a songwriter known for his important political and social commentary weaved into danceable tracks like “Brazil” (about corruption in the 2014 FIFA world cup) and “Paracetamol” (about the medias representation of LGBT communities), Declan has gained an extensive fan base of all ages which was well represented at the show. Fans were dressed to the nines in anything that would shine – from silver spandex (reminiscent of Declan’s Zeros album cover) to glittery dresses and eyeshadow.

A showman of few words between songs, Declan let his lyrics speak for themselves as he continued his set with more tracks from What Do You Think About the Car? Including “Why Do You Feel So Down,” “Humongous,” “Isombard,” and “Make Me Your Queen” interspersed with songs from Zeros including “Rapture,” “Twice Your Size,” and “The Key to Life on Earth.”

Declan closed his set with his latest single “Sympathy” before leaving the stage for a brief moment, and returning for a rousing encore cover of George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” during which Declan made his way off to the stage and to the barricade to show off his guitar skills. He then ended the night with the energetic “British Bombs.”

Eli Smart:

Declan McKenna: