Monday, October 5, 2015

The Mavericks concert review: Highland, Calif.

Whenever Raul Malo decides to cover a well-known ballad on an album or in concert, it often becomes more romantic or heartbreaking in the singer/guitarist’s hands. Rogers & Hart’s old pop standard “Blue Moon,” which The Mavericks contributed to the Apollo 13 film soundtrack in 1995, was a prime example.

On Thursday night in Highland, Calif., it happened again with another celestial body-themed tune. The Mavericks’ mesmerizing version of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” (a top 40 UK hit for the Canadian rock legend) was even quieter than the original. It featured subtle organ, accordion, sax accents and some brush stroke drumming from Paul Deakin. Several couples near the front of the stage slow danced right along.

Last month, the veteran Miami-bred, Nashville-based quartet snagged a Best Duo or Group of the Year honor at the Americana Music Awards, thanks to the impressive, highly acclaimed latest studio album “Mono” (the second since reuniting in 2012).

During the 1 hour, 45-minute show at San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino, it was easy to see why the win was so well-deserved. The band, augmented by three regular touring players, deftly moved between multicultural music styles that veered from the rock ‘n’ roll era to the present.

Opening with the festive, horn-driven “All Night Long” (the first of five selections from “Mono”), Malo sang with an aching sense of longing, and then the guys shifted moods for the positive ska of “Summertime (When I’m With You).” Jerry Dale McFadden, clad in a purple suit, was giddy as ever while doing the organ fills here and throughout the night. Before the jaunty shuffle “Stories We Could Tell,” Malo encouraged fans to dance. There were ample opportunities.

“Back in Your Arms Again” (off 2013’s “In Time”), where lead guitarist Eddie Perez pulled out all the stops, was an early highlight. The crowd went wild for The Mavericks’ spirited top 20 country hit from 1994 “There Goes My Heart,” the boogie woogie of “As Long as There’s Loving Tonight” and “Dance the Night Away.”

Everyone exited the stage, then Malo emerged for a solo acoustic version of Fred Rose’s 1940s country standard “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” It was simply gorgeous. Then the band returned for another one of their mid-’90s country hits, the sublime “O What a Thrill.”

By the time The Mavericks entered the home stretch and did the Latin accented “Dance in the Moonlight” there was a definite party vibe among the crowd. Malo was having a blast doing the call and response vocal part too. Finally, the gig closed with exuberant and popular Tex-Mex tune “All You Ever Do is Bring Me Down,” led by prodigious use of accordion, assuring that most fans went home happy.

My review originally appeared at 
Photo courtesy: RGK Entertainment

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