The Mic were present as chart heavyweight Mabel graced Rock City as part of her international tour, giving a masterclass in empowering pop anthems.
Mabel – full name Mabel Alabama-Pearl McVey – visited Rock City as part of her UK and Europe tour for her debut album High Expectations, but did she live up to the high expectations of her audience?
Following the successful release of her single Finders Keepers featuring British rapper Kojo Funds in May 2017, which reached the top 10 of the UK Singles Chart and became platinum, Mabel made quite the impression on the R&B scene. Dropping the mixtape Ivy to Roses in late 2017 and opening for Harry Styles during his debut studio album tour led to Mabel’s nomination for British Breakthrough Act at the Brit Awards in January 2019. Soon after, both Don’t Call Me Up and Mad Love were dropped as singles from her debut studio album High Expectations and found great success in the UK charts (peaking at 3rd and 8th respectively), which eventually led to the release of the album in August 2019.
As Rock City began to fill with young women ready to be empowered by Mabel’s newest stream of confident music provided by High Expectations – a move away from the breakup ballad-like nature of her previous mixtape – the tone was set as one of optimism and positivity. This tone was embodied by Mabel’s performance of OK (Anxiety Anthem), a song sung candidly about battling anxiety (an issue which forced Mabel to drop out of school at a young age), but one that encourages embracing yourself and feeling comfortable in your own body. This message clearly resonated with the audience as the 2,000-capacity room erupted with vocals from all members of the crowd, no matter their gender or age.
Throughout the performance Mabel expressed her desire for audience participation, and boy did they fulfil this desire. Every song saw the young impassioned women in the room supporting the Malaga-born singer, a fact that Mabel expressed her gratitude for after the show on Twitter as she revealed she hadn’t been feeling 100% during the concert.
'This positive message clearly resonated with the audience as the 2,000-capacity room erupted with vocals from all members of the crowd, no matter their gender or age'.
Despite her mentioned health issues, Mabel’s vocals seemed on-point and any suggestion of illness would have been baffling to any in the crowd, I’m sure. The only noticeable impact would possibly be Mabel’s on-stage movement, which seemed slightly more static than fans are used to – especially to myself, who witnessed her bouncing around the stage at SW4 Festival in the summer of 2019 with an energy reminding us that she is just 23 years of age. However, the lack of energy expressed by Mabel was more than made up for by her four incredible back-up dancers, who did in fact open the show before Mabel’s appearance.
With the set time only spanning just under an hour, the performance can only be described as a fusillade of stunning visuals and vocals with no rest for the weary guardians of the minors in the room. Speaking of the visuals, appreciation is needed for the futuristic, almost Blade Runner-like atmosphere created by the numerous neon light strips present, aided by the smaller dimensions of the Rock City stage. The result was a soothing purple glow that engulfed the audience during the performance, drawing us into the serene world created by Mabel’s every word.
'Appreciation is needed for the futuristic, almost Blade Runner-like atmosphere created by the numerous neon light strips present, aided by the smaller dimensions of the Rock City stage'.
The show ended on a high as Mabel left the stage and then reappeared on the demand of the audience for one last performance of Don’t Call Me Up – arguably one of her most popular songs and one which marked her increase in confidence as a person between her mixtape and debut album. This confidence was transferred to the audience who, for possibly the first time during the show, began jumping and dancing to the beat, a sudden increase in tempo from the gentle swaying prevalent throughout the rest of the night. The crowd was consumed by Mabel’s infectious, fierce presence – even those parents who perhaps hadn’t known other songs but certainly knew this one.
Looking back on the performance, I think it’s safe to say that the high expectations of myself and the rest of the audience were met, even if Mabel doesn’t think so. Having been entranced by the beautiful storytelling of the singer, I am only filled with excitement of what Mabel has to offer next.