There’s a saying about a week being a long time in politics, but in the music business a year can be very short – and that can certainly be said of Belfast upstarts Maverick, for whom this return to the legendary Limelight for their second headline slot in as many months marked the first anniversary of their formation as a band. In those brief 12 months, they have come an extremely long way indeed, building a rabidly loyal (and growing) fanbase en route and developing a reputation as one of the most respected and hard-working bands on the Norn Iron scene.
Tasked with opening proceedings at this special birthday party were the more experienced Midnight Tranmission, who definitely proved to be no more than a warm up act. While undoubtedly talented musicians, and as tight as you could wish for as a unit, the problem seemed to be that the rhythm section want to play one style of music, the two guitarists want to be in a totally different band altogether and vocalist James Watson wouldn’t look or sound out of place in any sad emo act you care to name: in fact, Watson’s vocals are the weakest link, just too mellow for the heaviness of the music behind him, which itself veers between Championship-standard classic metal and indie-fied stoner. Nevertheless, they gave it a decent stab and received a suitably positive reaction from many of the early comers.
Visiting the toilets as Little Miss Stakes prepare to take the stage proves somewhat of a hazardous venture, as the air is thick with talcum powder and the basins covered in mascara and facepaint… now, the first time I saw these four horror punks, I must admit to being far from impressed – completely the opposite in fact: I wrote them off as a joke band, to be brutally honest. But, what a difference a couple of years of almost constant gigging can make, and tonight I witnessed a totally different band in action: yes, the ghoul make up and talc-ed up hair is still there, but the dresses have been forsaken in favour of more conventional ripped jeans and T shirts – and musically, they have come on leaps and bounds: even with stand-in drummer Stephen Engelen, they are tight and focussed, coming across a young, hungry WASP jamming with The Misfits, with elements of The Last Of The Teenage Idols, Lordi and Murderdolls thrown in. LMS are proof of how a band can progress if they just stick at their craft, and they won over many new fans this evening.
Another band who are evidence that hard work and dedication most definitely does pay off is tonight’s headline act. As I said above, Maverick have basically been grafting harder than a Belfast docker, playing every show that has come their way and building their fanbase (something aided by an astute social media presence from which many much bigger acts could learn a lot…).
Tonight was most definitely their reward, as an extremely healthy crowd had turned out to help them celebrate their anniversary, and right from the raucous opening anthem ‘We Are Maverick’ those present in turn were rewarded with another energetic, lively and rambunctious set packed with catchy choruses, memorable melodious and heaps upon heaps of good old-fashioned fun. Yes, things like frontman David Balfour’s Michael Starr-style posing, the back-to-back guitar soloing and the human pyramids are all a bit kitsch – but that’s the point, mofos: this is good time hard rock played with passion, commitment and not inconsiderable flair (guitarist Chris Van Engelen in particular has come on leaps and bounds, especially in the confidence department, over the past year) with the aim of doing just that – have a good time… something which happens every time Maverick take the stage – and when they leave it, I defy anyone not to themselves leave without a huge smile on their face!
Little Miss Stakes launch their ‘Monster Party Hits’ EP at the Empire Music Hall on Friday September 13th. Support comes from Maverick, Scimitar, The Unprotected and Sons Of Sin. https://www.facebook.com/events/153614008174788/
Maverick (with fellow Norn Iron acts Baleful Creed, Screaming Eagles and Sinocence) play Highway To Hell 4 at The Classic Grand, Glasgow, on October 5/6: https://www.facebook.com/events/237627356362028/