Maverick Aug28


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Sometimes, you go to a gig that’s so good, it does more than just make you smile, and cheer, and sing. Sometimes you go to a gig that’s so amazing that it actually takes you back in time.

Such was the case on Saturday night, when local favourites Maverick launched their brilliant new album Big Red in Belfast’s Limelight, supported by Irish metalheads Stereo Nasty. Even before the doors opened at 7pm there was a heavy sense of anticipation hanging in the air; Maverick always put on a great show, but tonight promised to be something special indeed.

First up is Stereo Nasty, whose love of Eighties thrash/NWOBHM is abundantly clear from the moment they begin playing. “Alright, Belfast?” booms frontman Mick Mahon to an already packed room, before they fire into ‘Out of the Fire’ with passionate abandon. Although they play very NWOBHM-influenced heavy metal, it’s still fresh and exciting and delights the crowd, setting heads banging and feet tapping with appreciation. Mahon’s throaty vocals – he sounds like he’s been gargling with whiskey and broken glass – suit the band’s throbbing back beat and thick, almost percussive riffs perfectly, as do the ‘double denim with lethal shoulder spikes’ uniform they have adopted. After playing a selection of their favourite tracks, they surprise the crowd by playing a new one beyond their timeslot, the thrashy ‘Kill Or Be Killed’, before exiting the stage having done a superb job of warming up the crowd – and the room.

By the time Maverick take to the stage to their traditional ‘Rocky’ style intro, it’s as hot as Satan’s armpit in the Limelight, but nobody seems to care: all eyes are fixed on the stage. Dotted about the room are various members of local bands, out in support of their mates on the stage. After a heroes welcome they launch into ‘All For One’, replicating it perfectly, right down to frontman David Balfour’s rich vocal performance.

As promised, they play every song from the album – not necessarily in order because, as Balfour explains, some of the tracks are vocally harder than others so they get played early on – moving on to ‘Free’ with it’s glorious hook and slinky, sexy riff, then ‘Beyond the Gates’, where he hits the high note magnificently. “Welcome to our house!”, Balfour yells jubilantly. “Hopefully we won’t wreck the place!”. They then proceed to play the song that is sure to become a fan favourite from the album, ‘The One’, which is simply bursting with joyful energy and a strong rockabilly vibe.

Every song is greeted by huge applause; the crowd are in their element tonight. Prior to each song Balfour provides snippets of information about their inspiration: thus, we hear that ‘Forever’ was inspired by the movie ‘Highlander’, while Sin City was the spark that ignited ‘Mademoiselle’. He also dedicates ‘Renegade’ to former band member and long time friend Chris Van Engelen.

In a rare moment subdued moment, ‘Fly Away’, the band’s first ever proper ballad, is dedicated to a friend who lost his life ten years ago. A keyboard appears onstage for guitarist Terry McHugh, while drummer Mike Ross picks up his guitar, lead guitarist Ryan Balfour sits down with an acoustic guitar and bassist Richie Diver briefly seats himself behind the drumkit – Maverick are nothing if not skilled multitaskers! The song itself is flawless and heartfelt, not to mention affecting; a fitting tribute to a fallen friend.

They pick the pace back up again for party track ‘Whiskey Lover’, a brash and entertaining number that is reminiscent of early John Cougar Mellencamp and the like before finishing with lead single ‘Asylum’ which prompts a boisterous singalong, particularly during the ‘woah oh’ chorus.

The album launch done, they end their set with favourites ‘Paint By Numbers’ and ‘In Our Blood’, as well as a surprising cover of Extreme’s ‘Get the Funk Out’, before leaving the stage bang on time. And that was that…or so we thought! With a sneaky grin they all climb back onstage to play the raunchy ‘Top Heavy’, to everyone’s delight. And then they really are done, thanking everyone sincerely and radiating gratitude (and probably a little bit of relief that it went so well).

Both Stereo Nasty and Maverick’s sound harks back to the Eighties, a time when hair was big and hair metal was even bigger. Their secret lies in keeping the sound fresh and current, rather than just a lazy pastiche. Gigs like tonight show that Maverick are at the top of their game right now; having been around for a mere four years, who knows how high their star will ascend as they continue to grow?

Review by Melanie Black

photos by Liam Kielt

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