Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Mavericks at Damrosch Park

Raúl Francisco Martínez-Malo Jr., known professionally as Raúl Malo, was born to middle-class Cuban parents in Miami, Florida. He started playing bass in high school and played in local bands until switching to guitar and vocals and forming the Mavericks in 1989. The Mavericks struck gold, combining neo-traditional country music, Latin, and rockabilly influences on six studio albums between 1991 and 2003, which led to a Grammy Award, two Academy of Country Music Awards and two Country Music Association Awards. After a drop in popularity, the band split in 2000, reformed in 2003, split again in 2004 and reformed again in 2011. The Mavericks released an eighth studio album, Mono, on February 17, 2015. The band presently consists of Malo, guitarist Eddie Perez, keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden, and drummer Paul Deakin; on tour the band hires additional musicians.

The Mavericks headlined a Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors concert at Damrosch Park tonight, and performed under a full moon for about 90 minutes -- a short set by Mavericks standards, but the outdoor venue had a curfew. Rooted in country swing, the band stretched out in many directions. Some songs sounded like they were meant for the ballroom and others for the billiards room. When Malo sang, his baritone was lush and supple; when the band jammed, the musicians provided a series of finely-orchestrated blasts to keep the audience swaying its hips. Songs were often punctuated by stinging guitar leads, rolling keyboards or a brassy horn section. Many songs were from the Mavericks' more recent albums, but the band delivered its better known songs as well. The cover songs reinterpreted Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Born on the Bayou" (which included snippets of the Beatles' "Within You Without You" and Harry Nilsson's "Coconut"). Malo slowed the momentum when he started the encores with two songs solo on acoustic guitar, the first a Spanish ballad dedicated to his father and the second a Frank Sinatra standard, "Summer Wind." The band then returned for another 20 minutes of heartland-centered rock and roll. The evening was a timeless display in richly rooted American music.

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