Maverick with support from Safire
Saturday 16th April 2016 – Diamond Rock Club, Agoghill
The tiny and unassuming exterior of Agoghill’s Diamond Rock Club hides a warm and inviting place where legends can not only play, but grow. From fledgling newcomers to bona fide musical heroes, they’ve all come, seen and conquered the mighty Diamond.
Last Saturday night was no exception, with the aforementioned newbies (Safire) and the rising local stars (Maverick) combining to create a perfect storm of rock n roll. Safire took to the stage first and soon warmed the crowd up with their modern twist on classic rock. With Donum Dei bassist Dean Kane recently joining their ranks, the band are still learning their live stage craft (their first gig was a mere twelve months ago) and some nerves are on show, particularly in proper rock chick vocalist Saffron Gorman: her clear and concise voice wobbles a few times until she warms up and relaxes into the role. She needs to learn to trust herself and let go – when she does, her ‘Pat Benatar x Ann Wilson’ rock voice is simply a joy to listen to.
It means that the second half of their set is smoother and less nerve-filled than the first, resulting in a cracking half a dozen or so songs that immerse the crowd in snarling riffs, assured and wailing guitar solos and Gorman’s honeyed vocals. It’s their newest material that goes down the best, from ‘Against the Grain’, a rollicking number that channels Guns n Roses at their most potent, and ‘Out of Town’, which sounds a little like Heart’s ‘Barracuda’ fed through and Eighties rock filter. Expect big things from this band now that their line-up is complete.
And so to Maverick who, following the most ‘Eighties movie soundtrack’ intro ever, finally answer the question that has been dogging them since their previous guitarist left: who is his replacement? To everyone’s delight, vocalist David Balfour announces their newest member is none other than musical chameleon Terry McHugh, who looks nervous but chuffed to bits to be standing onstage with his new bandmates.
With the formalities out of the way, Maverick proceed to do what they do at every gig: blow the bloody doors off. They begin with recent single ‘Paint By Numbers’ from debut album Quid Pro Quo, followed by ‘Side By Side’, which Balfour dedicates to one of McHugh’s other bandmates, Altus’ Mick Legge; both, predictably, earn rapturous applause.
Although normally effervescent and charged onstage, tonight they seem rejuvenated, excited by the possibilities that come with bringing such a talented musician to the fold. Thus ‘Snakeskin Sinner’ roars like a runaway train, ‘Electric’ shows their impressive cohesion – not to mention Balfour’s confidence and skill as a frontman – while crowd favourite (and your reviewer’s, too!) ‘Got It Bad is simply smashed out of the park, if you’ll pardon the cliché.
Taking a well earned break for a few minutes, the band gather at the side of the stage to give newcomer McHugh a chance to strut his stuff; he duly blasts out a guitar solo that’s as impressive as it is face shredding. They then offer up a new track from their upcoming album Big Red called ‘Free’, which proves to have that instantly recognisable Maverick bouncing swagger, followed by a heartfelt and powerful ‘Shackled’.
Another short break gives sticksman Mike Ross his chance to shine as he pummels the skins for a blistering solo: he may not be a towering hulk but he is certainly one hell of a powerful drummer. Firing back up, the band launch into sexy duo ‘Rock n Roll Lady’ and ‘Top Heavy’, during which Balfour grabs a phone from one lucky punter and begins filming onstage. A short, teasing encore later they play proper oldie ‘Maverick’ followed by an amped to f**k ‘In Our Blood’, which is dedicated to our very own photographer Liam, much to his delight.
And then it’s over, with the Warner Brothers’ ‘That’s all, folks!’ theme tune ringing out across the room (ha!). In truth, it’s all but impossible to write a clinical, detached review of a Maverick gig – they’re just too damn fun. Brash, entertaining, inviting and an excellent night out: that applies to both the band and the legendary Diamond itself.