Maverick - Belfast, Empire Music Hall - 26th November 2014 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby   
Wednesday, 17 December 2014 03:00

The release of their debut album is a landmark occasion for any band, and therefore a justifiable cause for celebration - which is exactly what Belfast hard rockers Maverick chose to do to mark their stunning 'Quid Pro Quo' opus (reviewed HERE on Uber Rock) when they hired one of the city's most iconic venues and invited along a hundred or so of their closest, most personal friends along for what proved to be a very special night indeed...


Dead Addiction - ChrisThe rock and metal community is very much a family, and the Mavs definitely displayed this with their choice of opening act - Dead Addiction (featuring their brother and band founder Chris Van Engelen, with whom there had been an amicable separation shortly before the album recording process began). The openers, in fact, had played their debut show in exactly the same slot a few weeks previously, and on that occasion had displayed a raw, nascent potential - an attribute more fully on display this evening as the quintet impress with their traditional hard rock groove. Former Sweet Taste vocalist Niall Graham may have agreed to help the band out for their first few gigs, to help them get some all-important stage experience under their belts, and he may be somewhat out of his comfort zone singing more metallic material, but he brings a strut and a confidence which permeates into the rest of the band, especially on the likes of the vitriolic 'Blood Money', which is delivered with true acidic passion. Their combination of r'n'f'r swagger, funky grooves and classic metal riffology works well for a young band playing only their second ever gig, and I reckon that given another couple of months these guys will be standard fixtures on the Norn Iron scene.


Since their triumphant re-emergence from an enforced hiatus earlier this year, Conjuring Fate have quickly re-established themselves as one of the hardest-working and most impressively powerful live acts on the entire Irish scene (as evidenced when they wiped the stage with the once mighty Dragonforce a few months' back), and had been hand-picked by the headliners in order to push the latter to the limits with their own show... and the Fate lads certainly don't do their headlining mates any favours, as opener 'House On Haunted Hill' hits harder than a hurricane, with the band in typically rambunctious and rebellious form. Singer Tommy Daly may seem slightly distracted - but he has good reason to, warning that the set might have to get cut short if his 'phone goes off, as his wife Jules is due to give birth to the couple's third child literally any minute - but that doesn't detract from the power and passion (and cheekiness) of the performance. 'Land Of The Damned' is good old-fashioned unpretentious twin-guitar heavy metal, while their cover of 'I Want Out' (the only legacy from the band's previous incarnations) is warmly affectionate; by contrast, 'Trust No One' sees Tommy's vocals take on a particularly dark hue, to match the subject matter, and closer 'Backwoods Witch' fulfills its role to superb effect, bringing the set full circle in its feel and attitude. Another stunning set from a band who are enjoying their new lease of life.


Maverick - RichieAs mentioned at the top of this piece, an album launch party is always something a little bit special - and that is just what Maverick had promised us, mostly via teasing posts on their social media pages in the weeks, days and even hours leading up to the gig... but, little did the almost capacity audience who had come along to join in the celebration realise just how special it actually going to be.


Bounding onto the tiny stage, grinning from ear to ear, the five boys launch into a complete run through of the 'Quid Pro Quo' album, with 'Snakeskin Sinner' immediately getting the room grooving and jiving, as the whole band simply ooze confidence and charisma in intoxicating levels. Debut single 'Paint By Numbers' grunts and slithers, as the lads add a new level of energy and enthusiasm to the songs, feeding off the same elements emanating from the highly enthusiastic crowd in front of them, while 'In Our Blood' stomps and stonks its message home with venomous intent, 'Rock N Roll Lady' - dedicated to an ill friend, not only of the band but many present - is rowdy and riotous while the brilliant 'Last Addiction' shows that it is a song which can be poignant in its subject matter but glorious in its delivery.


As stated in my review of the album, this little band have rawk 'n'f'n' roll coursing through their veins, but their live shows add fire and fury to the mix of elements they bring together. However, whereas most bands at this level would be content to leave things where they are - i.e. play the album and add in a couple of 'oldies' for good measure - Maverick ratchet things up, not just one level but several... frontman David Balfour (who unfortunately is showing some of the throat problems which have plagued him over the past year or so) takes a back seat - behind the drums (he actually started out as a drummer, Uber-fact-fiends!) and drummer Mike Ross steps out from behind his kit to join in a three-minute three-guitar trade off with Ryan Balfour and Ric Cardwell, before former guitarist Chris Engelen rejoins the action for a rambunctious and hugely enjoyable 'Hellfire'. But, the lads aren't finished yet, as they once again teach a certain past-it glam rock singer how the classic 'Youth Gone Wild' should really be played before taking their well-deserved final bow.


Referring back once more to my album review, Maverick are a band who show the passion, the promise and, above all, the desire to possibly be the one act to break the shackles of the Norn Iron scene and make a much bigger dent in ye olde rock 'n' roll Uberverse! If - no, when - these guys roll into your town - or one near you - make sure to catch a piece of the action!


Photographs by Darren McVeigh / MetalPlanet Belfast (taken at an earlier show in Voodoo, Belfast)


To pick up your copy of 'Quid Pro Quo' - CLICK HERE