Exuberant on Leeds’ first night of April warmth, the long, snaking line of young women trails back to Duke Street, snippets of song trickling out of phone speakers, pre-mix cocktail tins clinking, Instagram handles being swapped between new friends. Before the doors have even opened, it feels something like a female celebration, a distinctly different atmosphere to the traditionally indie male gig-goer that frequents The Wardrobe.
This dedicated audience cling to the lip of the stage throughout warm-up Grace Carter, a slick pop performance that hits every note of the radio-ready, neo-soul movement that is proving highly popular right now, albeit lacking in a specificity that allows it to truly hit home with tonight’s highly millennia crowd. ‘Silhouettes’ is the stand out, a humble ballad that soon gives way to a certain deftness that should prick any A&R man’s ear.
As Mabel McVey skips on stage at a timely 8.30pm, the order has well and truly been established. The few men in the crowd stand dutifully back as the women scream: this is well and truly their time. Daughter of Neneh Cherry, Mabel is well prepared for this sort of girl power – with an arsenal of tracks that detail the tricky ins and outs of love and self-worth, she sings in a way that clearly resonates with the young women in front of her.
A call out to find the ‘day ones’ in the crowd pays off as she plays 2015’s ‘Know Me Better’ to huge excitement, but so does ‘Ivy’, a softer ballad that allows her to show off the range of her voice, heavily influenced by the glory days of early 00s RnB. There’s a brief cover of Drake’s ‘Passionfruit’, before an outing of unreleased material that borrows notably from the trends set by the Canadian rapper – ‘Put A Name On It’ is pure tropical-trap, while ‘One Shot’ reads like a sassy kiss-off to commitment-phobes.
Pulling to a close with Radio-1 behemoth ‘Finder Keepers’, what we’ve witnessed tonight is a model case study of the new guard of British R&B. What Mabel lacks in true originality she makes up with slickness in spades, displaying a keen eye for what’s hot right now.
How to take this millennial relationship to the next level? A touch more emotion. On the cusp of being something truly big, we’re ready to get to know the girl behind the music a little better.