Mabel review – a blast of charisma from the warrior queen

·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Richard Nicholson/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Richard Nicholson/Rex/Shutterstock

February is shaping up to be a hectic month for Mabel McVey. After finishing the sold-out UK leg of her current tour, she will perform at the Brit awards ceremony after being nominated for best female solo artist, best newcomer and song of the year – as well as achieving the notable but dubious honour of being the only woman to break into any of the mixed-gender categories.

After that big bash, there are yet more tour dates across Europe. Somewhere in the middle of all that, she will also turn 24.

If such a densely scribbled wall planner would stress most people out, McVey – daughter of Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack producer Cameron McVey – seems to be relishing both the glamour and the grind. On stage in Glasgow, she looks and moves like a warrior queen in an outfit that niftily combines a power-dressing suit jacket with the shorts and thigh straps of a Mortal Kombat video game avatar, all in vibrant Irn-Bru orange.

Flanked by four tireless dancers and backed by a three-piece live band, McVey is also accompanied by a hyped-up crowd, who are word-perfect on the echoing dancefloor drama of Mad Love and the hopscotching hook-up anthem Finders Keepers. McVey’s slick 2019 debut album, High Expectations, may have been bolstered by a blue-chip team of seasoned songwriters, but her appealingly insouciant stage presence and obvious vocal talent clearly helped it connect.

On the swaying Trouble, she stretches out the title into its own vaulting, multi-stepped melody line and rather ambitiously asks the audience to echo it back, which they do with uncommon skill. That enthusiasm is rewarded during the sombre, straight-shooting OK (Anxiety Anthem), when McVey vanishes off stage before reappearing in the front row for some selfies and a big hug. (“I needed that!” she gasps.)

Even with an encore – culminating with the irresistible, long-tailed and now Brit-nominated banger Don’t Call Me Up – it is all over in little more than an hour. But what a concentrated blast of charisma. The Brits won’t know what hit it.

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