In every scene there is always that one band: the one that grows in both skill and talent at an exponential rate with every song, every album, every gig. The one that makes you wonder why on earth they’re still playing cramped venues that are filled to capacity, when they should be massive on an international scale. Here in Northern Ireland there are actually several bands in this category – we breed talent like nobody’s business – but they face a rather unique geographical barrier; part of the UK yet separate, and far away enough from the likes of London or Birmingham or even Glasgow that it may as well be a million miles.
Good Friday in NI also poses another challenge: no alcohol served until 5pm and all licensed establishments must be closed, and their staff away, by midnight (don’t ask. It’s a bugbear). How to get around this? Start early, finish early, and go back to the singer’s place for a house party, according to an invitation from Maverick frontman Dave Balfour during their album-launching set in the Limelight on this most holy of days. Fair enough…
First up, local Sleaze/Horror/Punk rockers So Long Until the Séance/SLUTS took to the stage with a mixture of determination and libation, swigging on Buckfast in between their trashy, thrashy and gleeful tunes. Looking like a cross between The Misfits and Steel Panther, and with song titles such as ‘Dead Boys’, ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ and ‘Overdose’, they tread the line between sardonic and snarling with aplomb. A recent tour supporting Misfits legend Michale Graves has knocked some of their rougher edges off, leaving behind a band glowing with confidence and renewed vigour; their next release is already highly anticipated.
By the time headliners Maverick take to the stage in a blaze of glory the Limelight is rammed, with a heavy sense of anticipation hanging in the air. They burst into the title track of their new album Cold Star Dancer which simply electrifies the crowd, despite it being so recent. Newbie drummer Jonathan Miller beats his kit so hard that the very foundations of the building vibrate, while Balfour is in superb voice; crystal clear and without a sign of strain, he hits every note perfectly. He’s also as excited as a kid on Xmas Day, enthusiastically fist bumping with crowd members and wearing a permanent beaming smile.
By the time they get to ‘Viper’ (having played the strutting and cocksure ‘Mademoiselle’ from previous album Big Red and ‘Got It Bad’, for which they bring former guitarist Chris van Engelen onstage) it’s clear that, astonishingly, they are actually blowing their recorded material out of the water with tonight’s performance. Tracks such as the feelgood and uplifting ‘Seize the Day’ and ‘Magellan Rise’ (one of Balfour’s favourites, he confides) translate magnificently to a live setting, while lead single ‘Myrmidon’ dials the heaviness up a notch or two and sounds thunderous and vast and just…fantastic.
They bring the tempo – but not the atmosphere – down for just a moment with the beautiful and poignant ‘Goodbye’ before the ferocious ‘Devil’s Night’ is unleashed. The stage then darkens before an encore of sorts: ‘All For One’, party anthem ‘Whiskey Lover’, ‘Asylum’ and crowd favourite ‘In Our Blood’ wrap up an evening that has solidified Maverick’s reputation as simply one of the best bands this place has ever produced.
Despite – or perhaps, because of – recent turbulence within the band (they recently lost two members and were forced to fill the positions quite quickly, resulting in Stormzone’s Miller and guitarist Steve Moore stepping in), Maverick have risen to the challenges of late and played, quite simply, a blinder. Tonight was something of a litmus test: could they reproduce the quality of Cold Star Dancer live, with their new members, and play an eighteen-song set – their longest yet? The answer is an emphatic ‘oh HELL yes’ frankly; their performance was flawless, they had the crowd in the palm of their collective hand from the first note, and not one person in the packed room left disappointed. Maverick have always been rock stars in waiting: after tonight, that wait is over.
Cold Star Dancer
Got It Bad
Seize the Day
Kiss of Fire
Event Horizon (intro)
All For One
In Our Blood
Review by Melanie Brehaut
Photos by Liam Kielt Photography