Now that Plan B has opted to undermine his pop success by rapping about the most horrific things imaginable, it’s down to his former flatmate Michael Stafford to fill the blue eyed soul hole. As Maverick Sabre, the Londoner raised in Ireland had a hit debut album earlier this year.
He had his work cut out following the support act, entertainingly hyperactive dance troupe Rudimental. His jazz-funk backing band were slick but dull and rarely powerful until No One appeared in surprising dubstep form late in the evening.
His background as a rapper meant he was able to cram in plenty of lyrical material in a sing-song style, a striking voice with a tough huskiness. Tense tracks such as Shooting the Stars, about police corruption, gave him an edge that was missing in portions of the set. I Can Never Be was so smooth and old-fashioned that at times this felt like watching the skinhead Simply Red.
Faithful covers of A Change is Gonna Come, Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up and The Isley Brothers’ Summer Breeze were more signs that this is an old soul in hip hop clothing. A lengthy lull of slowies in the middle, including a solo acoustic They Found Him a Gun, dragged and caused audience chatter.
A new song, Just Smile, had heavier bass and more pace to the beats and suggested that the next album might have more life to it. Overall he needed to be louder to live on in the memory.