The Mavericks @ Vicar Street, Dublin  - Wednesday 7th Feb 2018

Returning in triumph to the venue they played a couple of years back (a somewhat less than successful visit at that time) The Mavericks again re affirmed their status as one of the world’s best live bands. The band came onstage to a suitable musical introduction that sets the tone for the following performance. Much of the material was taken from their most recent albums Brand New Day, Mono and In Time. There were a few back-catalogue numbers during the set as this version of the band largely rely on the material they recorded since reforming in 2012. Songs from their earlier phase are largely unknow to their current US audience, a predominantly younger demographic than the UK it would seem. Over here it is more likely to be the opposite with the pinnacle of their recognition being the big hit single Dance The Night Away (taken from their 1998 album Trampoline).

Many of the songs tonight also featured in their live album All Night Live from a couple of years back. That album and this show highlights the Cuban, Mexican, Ska, Roots and Rock elements of their music all underpinned by the powerhouse drumming of Paul Deakin. The band played Bruce Springsteen’s All That Heaven Will Allow and Neil Young’s Harvest Moon alongside their own inventive and inviting material written, in the main, by Raul Malo solo or as a co-writer. A rarely played song included in the early part of the show and one much appreciated by this writer was the early CMT favourite What A Crying Shame. It was a point of recognition for many in the audience, one that remind them how much they appreciated the band’s varied musical career.

Aside from the lead vocals of Malo which were, and have always been, a stand-out of their shows it was the combined talent on display that struck home time and time again. The twin guitars of Eddie Perez and Malo duelled throughout the even and often added a hard edge to the sound. Also crucial is the keyboard playing of Jerry Dale McFadden who also brings moments of levity with his onstage dancing and corralling the audience to clap in time. Add to that the undeniable contribution made from long-time live accompanists Michael Guerra on accordion and acoustic guitar, Max Abrams on saxophone and Ed Frieland on upright and electric bass. They were joined on this tour by Cuban trumpet player Julio Diaz. All got their turn in the spotlight and on the stage. The interaction between all of the players allowed then to extend and jam on the songs to bring the best out of them and for everyone the obvious enjoyment they got playing together. 

It was only after the tenth song that Malo addressed the audience and he did so by referring to the current state of division and disunity in America. Stating how important it was that everyone “ keep the conversation going.” He also addressed gun violence in the States and specifically the recent massacre at a show in Las Vegas. He dedicated the next song to the victims of all such mindless violence with a passionate and heartfelt version of the Bee Gees song How Can You Mend A Broken Heart? For the encore Malo returned to the stage and sang two songs accompanied by his acoustic guitar and both of these showed just what a powerful instrument his voice is. The first song was agin another pointed assessment of the current political turmoil that exists in America with Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changing followed by the hopeful message of the title song Brand New Day from their last album.

The band rejoined him then for the final set of songs that was extended due to the fact that all were having a good time here tonight. There was a high-octane version of Chuck Berry’s You Never Can Tell followed by an all-action, full on All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down to round off an exciting evening. The Mavericks were without doubt on top of their game and showed themselves capable of playing whatever music they cared to perform but that their Latin-tinged Americana is unique to them.Everyone went away tonight in the knowledge that they had witnessed something rather special.

Review by Stephen Rapid  Photograph by Kaethe Burt-O'Dea