Maverick Sabre attracted a diverse crowd at Birmingham’s O2 Academy on this night. While the cross-section of concert goers gave no indication that a socially-conscious soul-singer was about to grace the stage, the musical interlude definitely set the tone for the evening and consisted of an eclectic offering of hip-hop, reggae and crossover pop. The minimalistic set-up created a cool, calm and subdued vibe akin to that of a local jazz club; with the floodlights and stage blinders adding a little extra ‘pizazz.’
Accompanied by his band, who were thanked time and time again throughout the 105-minute set, applause and wolf-whistles filled the academy as soon as Maverick stepped-foot onto the stage. In a successful attempt to further hype the already hyped crowd, Mr Sabre orchestrated unison of waving hands while backing singer Chantelle held the fort on the first few bars of opening track Open My Eyes.
After Memories, but not before thanking “fantastic queen legend Ms Dynamite,” one of two support acts on the night, Maverick did a bit of “Birmingham make some noiseee”-ing and asked the crowd whether there were “any soul fans in the house.” The subsequent cheers and screams spoke for themselves and increased to include a series of impromptu shrieks and shrills once Maverick stripped of his shirt to reveal a black vest (all before the third song!).
Whether it was a tech issue, Maverick’s strong Wexford County accent or a combination of the two, the speech-sound quality lacked clarity in places. Nonetheless, what was lost in diction was made up for in performer’s authenticity and obvious passion for his craft, notably evident when he air punched and swayed his way through a guitar solo to the tune of I Can Never Be.
Sabre’s acapella-style sing-along sesh went down a treat with the audience, who responded well to each call and response request made by the singer-songwriter. Audience participation was definitely on the cards throughout, with the declarative “I want you to sing with me” preceding Maverck Sabre’s performance of new song Smile. The soul-infused track was followed by, what long-time Sabre supporters would deem as classics, I Used To Have It All and Sometimes.
“We’re having a bit of a technical problem, but f*** it, we’re gonna do something different today,” introduced a guitar-less acapella of the melancholic They Found Him A Gun, whereby Maverick’s quick-thinking and flawless delivery was applauded, showing full support from the fans.
Throughout the evening, Maverick Sabre catered for masses and crossed various musical genres. As well as performing a selection of original material, Sabre threw a couple of covers into the mix, namely: Sam Cooke’s Change Is Gonna Come, Bob Marely’s Get Up Stand Up and the The Isley Brothers’ version of Summer Breeze, with the former reinforcing Maverick’s social and political awareness. After his performance of These Days, No One and Let Me Go, Sabre performed the Chase and Status-assisted track Fire In Your Eyes, providing the audience with a distinct change in tempo, while giving the dubstep heads some, well, dubstep to bop to.
Sabre made good use of the abrupt-end plus unexpected-encore method and received a massive round of applause upon his return. After his reappearance and after thanking the audience for attending, he ended his set with Shooting The Stars and top 40 hit, I Need.
On the night, Sabre presented the crowd with, what seemed like, a series of self-contained narratives, with the 20-second-ish break between every other track – think pitch-black silent stage – uncovering an uncomfortable restless energy amoung the audience. While the individual components of show, including Sabre’s awesome command of both the stage and his audience, was on point; the set, as a whole, lacked continuity and would have benefited from a tiny bit more storytelling–style dialogue. In short, (and I’m not complaining – I promise!) it felt a bit like I was listening to a live version of Lonely Are The Brave (which totally needs to happen, if it hasn’t already) instead of being taken on a seamless musical journey.
Not knowing much about Maverick Sabre and his repertoire before the show, I’m excited to see how his sound and performance adapts once he starts to headline even bigger venues and arenas. There’s no rush, though. He’s only 22-years-old!
Review by Kamara Bennett
Photograph by Steve Gerrard