RED BANK, NJ—The always polite ushers at Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre had long since given up trying to keep people in their seats by the time The Mavericks’ lead vocalist Raul Malo segued the eight-member touring band from a rollicking audience sing-along on the folk standard “Guantanamera” into a supercharged version of “Twist And Shout” that had the packed house up and doing just that.
Filmed for AXS TV three days before the group’s benefit appearance* in Sandy-ravaged Union Beach, NJ, the reunited Mavericks tried their best to ignore the cameras surrounding them as they spent a solid two and a half hours converting a crowd of mere fans into fanatics with songs from their latest release, In Time, as well as favorites from their earlier efforts.
Performing in a venue that did acoustic justice to his magnificent, Roy Orbison-like vocals, Malo’s version of “country” or “Americana” music is a blurred-genre mix of pop hooks, Bakersfield-grit, Tex-Mex, old Nashville and raw rock that features more than a passing nod at his Cuban roots via the trumpet and sax fills of The Havana Horns and an irresistibly swaying backbeat.
The opening salvo of “Back In Your Arms Again,” “Lies,” “Born To Be Blue,” “All Over Again,” “Pretend,” “There Goes My Heart” and a crowd-pleasing “What A Crying Shame” found Malo, drummer Paul Deakin, rhythm guitarist Robert Reynolds, keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden, guitarist Eddie Perez, dog house bassist Elio Giordano, accordionist Michael Guerra, Max Abrams on tenor sax and trumpet player Quentin Ware all hitting their stride and locking in musically at about the same time somewhere in the middle of the first song—from there, there was no turning back.
Grinning broadly and obviously having as good a time on stage as their audience, Malo and crew kept things loose and limber during “I’ve Got This Feeling,” which became “That’s Not My Name,” which morphed into a crowd-igniting exploration of Bruce Springsteen’s “Jersey Girl”—which is also about the time remaining in your seat became optional.
A stunning take on Orbison’s “Blue Bayou” had the crowd enthralled as the band quickly shook things up again with “Every Little Thing About You,” “Fall Apart,” “Dance In The Moonlight,” “As Long As There’s Loving Tonight” and an extended, especially raucous “Dance The Night Away” to close out the main set.
The first song of the encore was just Malo, an acoustic guitar and a beautifully unplugged solo shot at “Here Comes The Rain.” Adding Guerra’s accordion to the mix led to a heartbreakingly beautiful version of “Ven Hacia Mi (Come Unto Me)” sung in Spanish before the band returned for a tribute to the late Slim Whitman on “Indian Love Call” and the aforementioned “Guantanamera/Twist And Shout” rave up.
A sultry bossa-cha-cha-lounge version of Dean Martin’s “Sway” began a second (!) encore, which eventually found the band and audience becoming one through the extended dance-a-thon of the bouncy “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down” that left both equally spent.
*The Destination America Network and USA WEEKEND conducted a contest awarding two communities a one-of-a-kind Fourth of July. Thanks to an essay written by resident Robert LaBerta, Sandy-ravaged Union Beach enjoyed a July 3 celebration headlined by The Mavericks that featured fireworks and BBQ served by the stars of Destination America’s series, BBQ Pitmasters, Myron Mixon and Tuffy Stone, as well as Last Call Food Brawl host Adam Gertler.
The Mavericks return to New Jersey on Friday, Aug. 16, at the Mayo Performing Arts Center. For more information, go to themavericksband.com.