Mabel’s quickly becoming one of the hottest commodities in UK R&B, and with her pop crossover appeal, she’s reaching bigger audiences than ever. Fresh off supporting Harry Styles on his world tour, she begun her own string of headline shows at The Wardrobe in Leeds on April 18th.
Welcoming a flood of students to The Wardrobe’s basement-bar was Grace Carter, who was responsible for a humble and powerful support set a good 45 minutes before Mabel took the stage. When she finally arrived however, her big hit from 2016 ‘Thinking of You’ appeased all impatience. Her gleaming white ensemble stood a crisp juxtaposition to perfectly straight black hair, which swayed with elegance as Mabel sauntered the stage to greet all members of the audience. Snappy percussion laid the foundation for the popstar, who was shadowed by back up vocalists in all black. The next track that Mabel delivered was ‘Bedroom.’ Above a tall fence of phones, the chorus drop bounced heavy while we ate up all of her energy; Mabel was smiling ear to ear throughout her whole set. ‘Talk about forever’ was a clear highlight of her performance, as a song that fuses moody R&B with electronic pop in an infectious combination, it’s here that Mabel truly showcased her natural comfort in performance. After all, who would expect the daughter of Neneh Cherry to not possess similar talent on the mic. When Mabel is on stage there’s a certain air of entitlement, a confidence in her ability, though don’t mistake this for arrogance because the freedom she expresses is so crucial to the passion of her fans.
Middling her set a stool appears on centre stage. Mabel struts towards it and collapses atop, she sits a crystal cut figure under spotlight and suddenly the mood has changed from joy to sorrow. The heartbreak ballad ‘Roses’ called the crowd to match Mabel on every word of her delicate chorus, while the popstar joined her fans for an emotional moment of shared catharsis. This was only a pitstop however, the sweltering hall became even sweatier once Mabel began to play material from her upcoming project. Presenting us two previously unheard tracks, they show an obvious influence of afro beat, the likes of which is becoming evermore popular in the UK charts. Clearly, all the time that she’s been spending with Not3s has influenced her. Where else would Mabel close her show than with her biggest hit to date, ‘Fine Line.’ As was characteristic with the gig, all phones were in the air recording her storm through both her own section and Not3s’ verse, but before we knew it the popstar waved goodbye and slipped to the back as her band closed the song. Considering that her hugely popular track with Kojo Funds, ‘Finders Keepers,’ hadn’t shown up yet, an encore was more predictable than spontaneous. That said, the party resumed in even grander fashion when Mabel reappeared, with her placing us on lyric duty in the absence of “Mr Funds.”
Drawn to a close on the last flick of her raven hair, fans left satisfied and amped for her impending debut album. A gig that was fun and energetic, Mabel brings an infectious flair with both her live and studio performances. No doubt she’s a name that we’ll be seeing more of for years to come.By Joel Landschaft-Singe