There can’t be many more consistent performers in modern music than Mac DeMarco. His cycle of roughly an album every two years is always intertwined with worldwide gigs; in this way he’s more aligned to the behemoth pop stars of our time, rather than an independent rock musician. Last Saturday night it was Melbourne’s turn, his first time back in the city since his memorable turn during Laneway in 2018. It was vintage Mac, yet there were small hints of change noticeable throughout the set.
There was highly interesting support slots from first CHAI, the excitable Japanese punks, and then Perth's psych rockers Pond, both exhibiting the same buoyant spirit of Mac without sounding too musically similar which kept the awaiting audience intrigued. Then it was Mac and the band's turn, the Canadian bouncing onto the stage sporting a throwback bucket hat.
The Festival Hall set was a near perfect split of old favourites and new songs. 'Here Comes the Cowboy' was arguably Mac's weakest album so far and, as if to prove the point, it was singles like 'Salad Days' and 'Another One' which garnered the strongest crowd response. He even elected to play an extended version of 'Choo Choo', a truly insipid song that tries so hard to sound like The Beatles at their most experimental that it comes off as complete parody, and which left the audience in danger of losing their attentiveness. The only other sign of indulgence came during the encore, when Mac relinquished singing duties to his drummer who unleashed 'unique' versions of songs by Nirvana and Weezer.
Moments like that were minimal, though, and attending a Mac DeMarco gig is to see an almost cult-like worship of the singer on stage: 'Ode To Viceroy' brought the comically endearing sight of many in the crowd - young and old - hastily sparking up a cigarette in honour of the song and the man; Still Together, a starkly beautiful ballad, was perfectly relayed back to Mac en mass, almost hymnal in its performance.
There are signs that the toll of the last decade has impacted on Mac, though. At one point he tells the audience that he’s purposefully slowing down the set for a few songs, admitting that he needs a break these days amidst the constant touring that he’s going through. His worshippers - for the want of a better word - are more than happy to allow him this but it’s a clear indicator that the wild Mac of before is aware of his limitations, accepting of the demands put upon him by his career.
If he continues his usual pattern, a new Mac album should be expected around 2021, after the demands of completing this tour are done. What’s undeniable after witnessing him at the Festival Hall is that his passion and skill in a live setting are completely undiminished; the people present would understand if he took some rest from his gruelling schedule but would also never tire from coming again to see one of the defining artists of the 2010s in concert again.