Clare Maguire – review

Bush Hall, London

In the last two years, the Brummie singer Clare Maguire has evolved from credible fledgling with impeccable influences (Howlin' Wolf, Sister Rosetta Tharpe) to someone who has apparently spent a lot of time listening to Bonnie Tyler. Though Maguire's rich, rounded voice is still one of the most impressive new sounds in pop – for which she was recognised by the BBC Sound of 2011 poll – it's the 80s belter Tyler who comes to mind during her first headlining gig.

Rending the air with blasts from a larynx too powerful for her small frame, Maguire is the kind of artist record companies fall all over themselves to sign. There's not just a bagful of material that anticipates the return of the power ballad (her new single The Last Dance, which she performs with hands pressed meaningfully against heart, is a roiling epic that would have spent months at No 1 in 1988), she also has an alabaster beauty made for magazine covers. Resistance is undoubtedly pointless.

That said, the eight-song set contains fragments of the earlier, raw-talent Maguire, making you wonder what next month's debut album, Light After Dark, would have sounded like if it hadn't been filled with soft rock. Tonight's opener, Ain't Nobody, is a dubstep/blues creeper that illustrates the alchemy wrought by combining electronics with a husky female voice; an impromptu extract from Kanye West's All of the Lights is curdled with the self-flagellation of the original. A cover of Fleetwood Mac's Big Love is an unadorned delight – well, until she begins ululating and whooping.

Though Maguire's career is being prepared for blast-off, on this showing she's still a work in progress. Even a spot of banter with a fan is tentative. Still, the raw material is so promising that she's worth keeping an eye on.


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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