Mabel McVey has had a long run-up for this, having released her first song in 2015 and been tipped by music industry tastemakers for stardom in 2016. Although it was her older sister Tyson who appeared on Top of the Pops in 1988, inside their heavily pregnant mother Neneh Cherry, you could well say that Mabel was born for it too.
This month the 23-year-old peaks, performing her biggest London show just before she arrives at the Brit Awards, where she has three nominations and will sing live again. As the only woman with a chance in muiltiple categories this year, she’s impeccably placed to be the next UK-based pop superstar after Dua Lipa.
She’s not in arenas yet but employed plenty of the paraphernalia here, including jets of fire, showers of sparks and waist-length metallic blue hair that gleamed all the way to the back. However, the show wasn’t polished to perfection, which made it more appealing. Her six dancers were a joy in black T-shirts as though straight from rehearsal, bouncing through loose routines that left room for individualism. She stopped the song Fine Line to jump into the crowd and check the wellbeing of a fan.
With just one album behind her, she was never far from a hit, including the EDM strut of God is a Dancer and the world’s most inevitable encore, the empowerment pop of Don’t Call Me Up, which spent four months in the top 40 last year. The London audience also benefitted from the venue’s proximity to some of her collaborators, which meant surprise appearances from Not3s, Raye and charismatic rapper Stefflon Don.
The journey hasn’t been easy – she cancelled two shows last week citing “health issues” and made a public acknowledgement of a substandard performance in Nottingham. But she’ll surely go home with at least one Brit Award next week and a deserved feeling that she’s finally arrived at pop’s top tier.