The State was full and buzzing when I walked to my seat. I’ll admit to a tiny bit of trepidation. It happens whenever I’m seeing a band for the first time. It’s more likely when the band’s style drifts terribly far from the rock and roll highway. I decided to do a Mavericks’ show for the simple reason that somebody who knows their stuff recommended it. All I can say is thanks for the tip!
Midway through the show, front man and band founder Raul Malo reflected on 30 years. He thanked the fans for making it possible and summed it up perfectly. “Look, I get it. We’ve never made it easy on you. You told your friends you were going to a concert and they asked who? When you said: ‘The Mavericks’, they just looked at you. ‘What songs do they play?’ And you went: ‘Uhhh….oh f**k!”
Yes, The Mavericks had a series of hits in the mid 90’s with tunes like All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down and What A Cryin’ Shame. Their music crossed musical boundaries but a lot of that commercial success happened on the Country Charts. So I missed it. But before you make any assumptions that this is another country band, think again. The Mavericks are a band. Full Stop. Despite some country trappings and a sound steeped in Cuban salsa and Mexican mariachi music, these guys produce a sound that’s as American as American can be.
Best of all, it’s a party from beginning to end. All I can say is that if I had the money and ever found myself getting married again (both eventualities are highly unlikely!), The Mavericks would be the ultimate wedding reception band. I mean that in the most complimentary manner. Their music is infectious, full of joy and if it doesn’t get you off your ass to dance, it’s because you’re simply taking a break from the dancing you’ve already done. People engage. They want to party!
The crowd greeted the band by leaping to their feet as the boys walked on stage. Within the first few notes of All You Ever Do, the dance party was in full swing. Nobody took a seat through the first eight songs as they rolled through a bewildering array of styles, from Cuban salsa to Los Lobos style rock and roll to straight up polka as they ripped through Beer Barrel Polka and Rolling Along. As the celebration raged, I noticed how bright the house lights were. It allowed the band to see the ruckus they were causing. As patrons looked around and saw everybody else dancing away, it was a green light to go even harder.
The middle part of the show provided a bit of a respite as the band delivered a string of recently recorded covers. Songs which influenced them all as kids and helped shape today’s eclectic sound. Malo reflected back on driving around Miami with his Dad, listening to the radio. In addition to the Cuban music, he was fed a dose of country and early pop and rock and roll. Tonight the band would once again breathe life into classics like Jack Greene’s Don’t You Ever Get Tired, Rodgers & Hart’s Blue Moon, O What A Thrill by Jesse Winchester and Freddy Fender’s I’ll Be There Before The Next Teardrop Falls.
Interesting to note that when Malo introduced that last one he chuckled: “Here’s a country tune. I didn’t say what country!” The crowd erupted in support of the fact that here was a song we all could sing but would never have heard without the contribution of Hispanic immigrants. When he sang a verse in Spanish, the crowd once again roared its approval.
By this time, I was completely sold on Malo as a vocalist. What a gorgeous voice! From crystalline falsetto to rockabilly growl to 50’s crooner pop. Nothing is outside his range. Just about anything is fair game. That’s one of the things that makes this band special. Lots of musicians have a wide range of styles. But if the vocalist can’t keep up, it comes off as contrived. This is the real deal. The band covers the waterfront simply because it can.
Every Little Thing About You is a Raul Malo solo artist song and it once more ignited the dance party. Folks were up again and would be for the duration. The song pounded away with an infectious low rider kind of groove before turning the horns loose near the end. The sheer volume of music coming from the stage was like a tidal wave. The Mavericks are a full nine piece band and when they decide to bring the heat, they can sure do it.
The band charged to the end of the main set beginning with All Night Long which meandered through references to Fifth Dimension’s Let The Sun Shine In from the musical Hair! They concluded with Back In Your Arms Again, the song which brought The Mavericks back together after a hiatus that lasted from 2004 to 2012.
The encore opened with John Anderson’s Swingin’, a cover they released a few weeks ago before moving into their take on Waylon Jennings’ Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way? Well, the answer to that musical question is…definitely not! It was done the way The Mavericks done it! It was a slamming Rockabilly number which meandered through the Dave Mason penned and Joe Cocker delivered Feelin’ Alright and Aretha’s R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
Once again, reinforcing the fact that The Mavericks are a band that defies categorization. They are simply a melting pot of times and styles, delivered by a band with the chops to pull off anything, especially a party. My notes draw a distinction between a band blasting the walls down (that’s a function of volume and energy) and bringing the house down. To bring the house down you need to add joyful musicality and musicianship. The Mavericks brought the house down.
30 years and counting. If the band has ever been stronger than it is today, I’m sorry to have missed the ride. All I know is I finally caught up with them. Now I get it. If the idea of music as a party, as a means of bringing folks together, is high on your agenda, you’ll be hard pressed to find yourself having more fun than in the midst of a Mavericks’ celebration of American music. They’re road dogs. They’ll be back. Keep your eyes peeled.