By BRUCE DENNILL
Alexandra May & The Mayze / Rumours Rock City, Blackheath, Johannesburg
Johannesburg singer-songwriter Alexandra May has already experienced a good deal of success as a label-supported pop star charting with her first two singles Amazing and Highlights, songs as notable for their positive lyrical content as they are for their top-notch – think Taylor Swift or Katy Perry – hooks and melodies.
She recently launched the next step in her career, introducing a group of family, fans, fellow musicians and industry types to her new band, The Mayze. A six-piece, the outfit comprises Steven de Longchamps on keys, guitars and backing vocals; Kiya Mac on guitars; Daniel Mhlanga on drums; Kieran Woolmington on bass and backing vocals; Keith MacFarlane on guitars, keys, and bass; and Alexandra’s sister Isabella Jane on keys and backing vocals. This line-up features a significant amount of experience. Most notably, MacFarlane was the singer for Eighties pop icons Face To Face, but every other member is already a veteran of several projects, with their individual credentials well-established.
May and The Mayze were supported by solo troubadour Will Rayz and rockers Don’t Poke The Bear (think Ray Charles singing contemporary pop and Powderfinger with South African accents instead of Australian ones respectively), very different musical propositions relative to the material they’d present at the end of the night.
Those sets and the way the musicians delivered them provided a fine baseline from which to judge how May and her band fared, given that they had no previous track record to be accountable. The immediate stand-out feature, when they did take the stage, was May’s phenomenal energy. This is a facet of her talent that can’t be observed in a polished studio recording, but which is impossible to ignore when she bounces onto stage – and keeps bopping and leaping around for the duration of her set (around 35 minutes for now; that will grow as she continues to write). There were comments during the recent Justin Bieber tour both complaining about and explaining his unwillingness – or inability – to simultaneously sing and dance for more than a couple of tracks, but May’s execution of the same combination clearly gave the lie to the line about it “not being possible”. Yes, this was a debut gig, and yes, she doesn’t yet travel around the world for a year at a time, but she also doesn’t struggle to pull off what audiences most want to see: good music served up in a way that, should it be augmented with the lighting and props budgets that support global superstars, would easily hold its own in such company.
Amazing and Highlights were already recognisable, while the ballad Breathe should and likely will join them as a fan favourite as it is introduced to more people. Other new material was, intriguingly, more edgy and alternative than May’s established milieu, suggesting possibilities for exploring different markets with The Mayze, whose collective chops are sufficient to adapt to any genre.
As a launch, this first show for May and her new outlet initiated useful interest among a connected crowd. The young singer has already demonstrated substantial commitment and ambition to build her career to where it is and that same attitude, bolstered by an excellent band whose members are all good friends as well, should – with further exposure – see her kick on as a formidable live act and radio airplay staple.