It was shortly after 9pm when opener, Irish soul singer, Laura Izibor took to the stage at the near-packed venue. The 20 year old’s laidback set was well-received by the increasingly growing audience, most notably the funk-inspired ‘From My Heart to Yours’. There was, however, a collectivized feeling of ‘Ok, so where is Mario’ in the audience. After all, doors did open at 7pm lol…
The wait was over when, just before 10pm, Mario emerged to a thunderous reception – opening his set with a rousing performance of his first hit ‘Just A Friend’. Working the stage effortlessly with a level of showmanship well beyond his 21 years, Mario set the scene for the rest of, what was to be, a high-octane show.
Of the show’s many highlights, current single ‘Crying Out For Me’ really stood out. From the ballad’s opening instrumentation, the entire audience were captivated – singing the whole of song in unison. Mario’s rapport with the largely urban ‘Teen-20 Something’ crowd was an integral part of his set; with the singer often bringing out female audience members to whine and grind with him.
The acoustic styled performance of ‘Music For Love’ was a personal highlight. Whereas, much of the audience listened on intently, somewhat unfamiliar with the track, I – for that moment – came off my indefinite ‘vocal rest’ and broke into song lol. A fantastic track and an even better live rendition. A tidbit: backing vocalists – not a feature of his band – may have been a good addition here as the demanding nature of the track saw him adlibbing (albeit, well) through quite a bit of the song.
Despite the presence of new material on the set list such as a stirring performance of ‘Go’ and ‘How Do I Breathe’ (which, I must say, sounds a lot better live), the show was, no doubt, a treat for the ‘true’ Mario fans. For, the singer delved deep into his back-catalogue and performed a few album cuts from his self-titled debut as well as 2004’s double Platinum ‘Turning Point’. Included were ‘Braid My Hair’ and ‘Directions’ – both of which much of the very vocal crowd recited word-for-word.
The intimate, stripped down nature of the show made for a great experience. Absent were the backing tracks and stage theatrics that so often hide the lacking talents of those who use them. In its place were raw emotion and a rare connection to an audience who, for the most part, had grown with Mario on his journey in the music industry. Deemed ‘underrated’ by some, if yesterday was any indicator, Mario’s story has only just begun.
• UK rapper Kano was in attendance
• Crowd energy was on a high for the whole night
• The band was made up of two bassists, a keyboard player and a drummer. They were on-point!
• We were lucky to enough to chill with Mario for a little while in his changing room after the show. He said he was glad that most of you enjoyed the interview.
Mario performing ‘Let Me Love You’