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Fox Performing Arts Centre, 20 Oct 2012

Fox Performing Arts Center

October 20, 2012.

Concert Review:
The Mavericks in Riverside, CA

Six months and about 75 miles from the kickoff of their reunion tour at 2012's Stagecoach festival, the Mavericks circled back to Riverside County on Saturday for a victory lap of sorts and soared through a 100-minute set with the momentum of an ensemble at the top of its game.

The band - currently travelling as a 9-member troupe built around core members singer Raul Malo, acoustic guitarist Robert Reynolds and drummer Paul Deakin - has been touring in advance of the January release of their first new album in ten years.   Guitarist Eddie Perez, a veteran of the last Mavericks touring lineup and several Dwight Yoakam tour runs, takes the fretboard spotlight throughout the show.

And for a band about as large in headcount as the E Street Band, the Mavericks prove impressively nimble navigating the nuances of their storied catalog, nailing the gentle vintage shuffles that fall behind Malo's Orbison-style ballads, the uptempo Texas swings and Cuban-inspired mambos that pepper their set.  And, for good measure, they bring a real authenticity to the Freddie Fender/Flaco Jimenez-style Tex Mex ranchera featured in a late set Volver, Volver, drawing from roughly the same well that Los Lobos visits when they reach for that particular classic.

These are styles that don't generally provoke sitting.  In that vein, the city's historic Fox Performing Arts Center, while a gorgeous venue, proved a bit confining for a crowd that, pretty much from the outset, came to dance, or at least they would have if not herded back into their assigned seats by helpful staff after being caught up in the moment and inadvertently shuffling into an aisle.

The band hit the ground with the shimmying Back In Your Arms Again, and early on worked in a couple of new songs from a summer EP released for the tour. Born To Be Blue, their summer single, slipped seamlessly into the set, as did Come Unto Me, a latin-flavored tune with a couple of spaghetti-western guitar flourishes.  As studio tracks, both set the stage for a strong album come January.

O What A Thrill brings to mind the power and facility of Malo's voice.   It's a preternatural instrument, seemingly ageless and just stunning in concert - a country counterpart to Robin Zander's golden pipes on the rock side.

There Goes My Heart into What A Crying Shame and the later-set pairing of Dance In The Moonlight and Dance The Night Away had roughly the effect of a New Year's ball drop, with the full crowd on their feet as if it were a hometown crowd welcoming long-missed friends.

A lengthy encore began with Malo, alone with a guitar, beginning Here Comes The Rain, only to be hilariously left in total darkness when an errant lighting cue cut his spotlight at the lyric "Here comes the night" in mid-song.  With that, he shifted into a lovely Besame Mucho, that kicked off another dance party with Guantanamera rolling into Twist And Shout.

Back for a second encore, the band capped the night with the aforementioned Volver, Volver and perhaps their best-known hit, All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down.  At this point, the energy level in the audience and the wall of sound coming from the stage could have easily swapped places with the final encore moments of just about any Springsteen show.

Whatever stars aligned, this proved to be one of those shows where band and audience were so dialed in, there was a palpable energy in the room for much of the show.  For this crowd and this band on this night, something special was in the air on Saturday.

Story by Richard Tafoya
SoundSpike Contributing Editor
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