REVIEW: Mabel makes San Francisco debut at Slim’s with new album in tow


Mabel performs at Slim’s in San Francisco on Aug. 19, 2019. Photos: Joaquin Cabello.

SAN FRANCISCO — Having chosen the music industry as a career path, London singer-songwriter Mabel has a lot of lineage to live up to. Her mother is acclaimed Swedish singer-songwriter Neneh Cherry. Her father is producer Cameron Andrew McVey, acclaimed for his work with Massive Attack, Portishead and Sugababes. Her uncle is Eagle-Eye Cherry, who wrote the ’90s smash “Save Tonight.” And her grandfather is renowned jazz trumpeter Don Cherry.


Mabel performs at Slim’s in San Francisco on Aug. 19, 2019.

Having chosen pop as her medium, Mabel has been making music since 2015 and charting in the U.K. since 2017. She released her full-length debut album earlier this month and after a summer spent at larger U.K. venues, made her North American debut at much smaller rooms, which included a stop at Slim’s on Monday. Her hourlong set mostly struck the right note with bombastic and catchy hooks. Where the artist has room for growth is on her slower numbers, which lacked a memorable lyric or unique instrumentation to tell them apart.

Preceded onto the stage by two energetic dancers and a hype-man starting the songs, Mabel kicked off her set with 2018 single “Fine Line,” a Caribbean-influenced pop cut. Most of the rest of the set was composed of songs from her new album, High Expectations. Prior to “Bad Behaviour,” a banger, she stopped everything to sign a record that a fan had waved at her.

Other songs included danceable kiss-off song “One Shot” and 2018 single “Ring Ring,” on which marimba-esque percussion actually sounded like a cellular phone ring. “Thinking of You,” an R&B jam off her 2016 EP, had fans singing and swaying along. Mabel also performed a cover of Drake’s “Passionfruit” and bouncy fan favorites “Finders Keepers” and “Put Your Name on It.” Following a short break, Mabel returned to perform an encore of “Stckhlm Syndrome” and “Don’t Call Me Up.”

Maya B

Maya B performs at Slim’s in San Francisco on Aug. 19, 2019.

Angeleno pop and hip-hop singer-songwriter Maya B opened the concert with a 30-minute set of songs that often combined her soulful singing with rapped lines about topics that she described as downers hidden in pop tunes. “I don’t wanna wear designer/ I don’t wanna be invited,” she repeated on opener “Don’t Wanne Be Invited.” “Noise,” meanwhile, was a downbeat rap song, and “Dollar To a Diamond” sounded like Chvrches—had that Scottish electro-pop band been fronted by Rihanna. Prior to the song, she explained how she wrote the song while she was couch-hopping before she signed with Capitol Records.

“Quick poll: Who’s been broke?” she asked.

Other songs included the angsty “Real Life,” about people putting on a fake show for others rather than being themselves and new single “Getty Woah.” She concluded by playing an unreleased song and her first single, the deep, rumbling “Selenas.”

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