Parker Playhouse, Fort Lauderdale
May 1, 2014
Better than: Anyone might possibly imagine
It's been more than fourteen years since the Mavericks last played in these parts, which made last night's nearly three hour concert Parker Playhouse clearly a celebratory homecoming. "It's great to be back in South Florida again," singer/songwriter Raul Malo declared several songs in. "We began not far from here."
They not only began, but achieved a remarkable notoriety, as well. Who would ever have guessed that a country band from Miami with a Cuban-American frontman would ever go on to take the Nashville establishment by storm. Yet here they are, celebrating their 25th anniversary and reunited after a bitter break-up that lasted an entire decade. Thats just one of the unsaid ironies brought to mind last night. Malo mentioned another -- the time they opened for a band that would become another local success story, Marilyn Manson. "It seemed like a good idea at the time," he remarked to the crowd's amusement. "All these people with pale make-up and eye liner... And they thought we were weird."
With that, the band launched into "Okee From Muskogee," a conventional country anthem from a band that's anything but. In fact, judging from the wide repertoire, their set list was drawn from, calling them country doesn't even begin to define their sound. Delving deep into their catalogue, along with covers, standards, and songs of their own that already sound like standards, they meshed Americana, classic rock, and South of the border influences into that stirring musical brew that makes the Mavericks' music so unique.
Needless to say, that made for any number of show stopping highlights. There were the hits (Crying Shame," "Dance the Night Away"), the homage to others (Malo's solo take on "Siboney" and "Around the World") and songs delivered just for fun (an unlikely Miami salute in the form of KC and the Sunshine B and's "Boogie Shoes"). And that was just in the encore.
That versatility makes the Mavericks much more than the contemporary country band they're often labeled at first glance, although clearly they succeed at establishing that impression quite well.
Like the E Street Band and Tom Petty's Heartbreakers, they're adept at switching styles, putting the music into a classic context that alternately swings, sways and rocks depending on the material. They offer a great visual presence as well -- with Malo, guitarist Robert Reynolds and drummer Paul Deakin commanding the center of the two tiered stage, guitarist Eddie Perez and keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden provide the energy on the outer flanks, Perez posing and posturing like the guitar ace he is, McFadden dancing joyfully at his band of pianos and organ, and towards the end, across the entire stage as well. A pair of horn players -- lending an authentic Mexicali flavor -- a stand-up bassist, and a switch-hitter on guitar and accordion completed the nine piece line-up.
By any other measure, the concert would have been a triumph. Being that it was a joyful return -- the musicians were still shaking hands long after the lights went up -- it was nothing less than a celebration. When Malo commented backstage beforehand that the band's having more fun than ever, it was clearly an understatement. There's no more proof than the fact it was so contagious.
Personal Bias: One of the first times I saw Malo perform was before a class I taught at a local high school. There were all of six people in attendance. Can I share memories of my own? Damn straight I can.
The Crowd: A faithful following from back in the day. Obviously all in love.
By the Way: One would be hard pressed to recall a better evening of music. The Mavs rule!
"Tell Me Why"
"Things You Said to Me"
"Back on Your Arms"
"All Over Again"
"There Goes My Heart"
"Here Comes the Rain"
"Sinners and Saints"
"Okie from Muskogee"
"From Hell to Paradise"
"Every Little Thing"
"La Bamba / Dance in the Moonlight"
"As Long as There's Loving Tonight"
"Siboney" (1929 classic Cuban song by Ernesto Lecuona)
"Sweet Dreams" (Patsy Cline cover)
"Around the World"
"Oh What a Thrill"
"Dance The Night Away"
"All That Heaven Will Allow" (Springsteen cover)
"Boogie Shoes" (KC & the Sunshine Band cover)
"Come Unto Me"
"Bring Me Down"