Live Music -Maverick Sabre - Concorde 2 Brighton - 07/11/11
Down at the Concorde the crowd are getting restless. It's 09:45 and headline act Maverick Sabre has yet to appear.
As the next great white hope Maverick has been seen and heard in all the right places (Buzzcocks, Jools Holland, Chris Moyles, V-Festival) and without even releasing his debut album the venue is sold out. This is in no small part to standout single Let Me Go which goes "Bond Theme" with Portishead's sample of Isaac Hayes' Ike's Rap II. A sample re-sampled. Who said there were no original ideas in music?
Just before things turn nasty he comes out full of apologies blaming a date mix-up that forced him to go back to London to do a batch of interviews only to rush back 10mins before the start.
Much has been made about Maverick's everyman quality and in the flesh he looks every bit the potato-headed council estate chav you would expect to see hanging out by the off-license in a tracksuit with a dog on a rope. Appearances are invariably deceiving as all preconceptions are shattered when he opens his mouth and sings with the voice that is part Finley Quaye part Amy Winehouse, but 100% unique.
Things start promisingly with Look What I've Done a soulful number with a decent hook that talks of teenage pregnancy and female body image. Credit where its due for avoiding the usual Cristal/Beeyach cliches.
During I Can Never Be the heat of the venue gets the better of Maverick and he takes off his T-Shirt only to be admonished by security who come on stage and whisper in his ear that uncovered flesh is against health and safety. Maverick picks up shirt like a scolded schoolboy but once the partisan crown starts to boo he plucks up the courage to rebel.
"I'm boiling up here...this is for all the guys without a six-pack"
he says in a bizarre patois that vacillates between County Wexford blarney and Jamaican rude boy. Let's say he wasn't late because he was held up at the gym.
New song Cold Game has echoes of Stevie Wonder's Gangsters Paradise with its descending chords and I Used To Have It All is a pleasant track. Both are played competently but struggle to stay in the memory after they finish.
Next up an acoustic section where Maverick breaks out the guitar and attempts go all Redemption Song on our asses. Best I can describe the nagging disappointment I feel is that Maverick suffers the Jill Scott Syndrome where the music has been sacrificed in order to tell a story. These Walls a tale of dysfunctional life in and out of prison has admirable lyrics but musically is entirely forgettable. An exception to this They Found Him a Gun. a pretty decent song about gun crime whose refrain is musical enough to get the crowd involved. It shows he can do music and message when he puts his mind to it.
He certainly knows how to work the crowd with his shouts of "You are the best crowd yet, Brighton" and the requests to put our hands in the air. It is a touch too "Radio One Road Show" for my tastes but you can't fault the guy for effort.
After declaring Noel Gallagher one of the best songwriters ever he launches into a pretty unimaginative version of Wonderwall which has the crowd in full karaoke mode. It would have been nice to see him do something a little different with it though.
Current single I Need is a radio friendly slice of inoffensive FM soul which is delivered with his trademark slur.
For an encore we get the big hit, Let Me Go backed up by some great Chaka Khanesque backing vocals that sound a good live as they do on record.
Last up a version of fellow Hackney resident Professor Green's Jungle, a bass heavy distant cousin to Jamiroquai's Deeper Underground which adds some menace to Sabre's soulful warbling.
With only flashes of brilliance Maverick would do well to develop his songwriting craft if he ever wants to challenge the Noel Gallaghers of this world. For a man who wants his debut album to be something
"that people can play back to their kids."
Based on this outing he needs to work harder on his songs unless he wants to be remembered as a poor man's Plan B. To be top gun Maverick needs the melody to meet his high flying ambition.