Concert Reviews

Fans Wanted Mavericks to "Just Play Songs" But They Also Got Political

David McClister
One band member even sported a Beto shirt.

As can often happen during a Mavericks concert, the tequila shots materialized mid-set.

Carried on a tray by a man clad in black, who weaved between the nine musicians onstage inside the Statler Ballroom, each member of the Mavericks picked up a glass, swallowed the clear liquid contained within and shouted “Salut!”

Already plenty loose and lively before the free tequila turned up, the Mavericks, led by the velvet-voiced, sunglasses-clad Raul Malo, turned back to the business at hand: Providing the soundtrack for a Friday night crowd in the mood to dance, sing and revel in the music being made before them.

For a band bearing down on its third decade, the Mavericks — Malo, drummer Paul Deakin, keyboardist (and Mesquite native) Jerry Dale McFadden, guitarist Eddie Perez, trumpeters Lorenzo Molina and Julio Diaz, saxophonist Max Abrams, accordionist Michael Guerra and bassist Ed Friedland — betray no signs of quietly easing into musical middle age.

Friday night’s two-hour-plus performance found the wonderfully indefinable act pulling from across its beloved catalog, up to and including its most recent LP, last year’s Brand New Day.

The Mavericks also mixed in a handful of inspired covers, such as a fantastic rendition of the country-pop classic “Before the Next Teardrop Falls,” which Malo introduced by saying, “Here’s one we never play, but we’ve been drinking a little bit. Every once in a while you just wanna play a song, and this is one of those.”

It’s easy to get tied up in describing precisely what the Mavericks sound like — Is it country? Is it Latin-spiced rock? Is it jazz? — but the best approach remains simply surrendering to the magic conjured by the supremely skilled Malo and his bandmates.

The 53-year-old singer-songwriter could make an audience swoon by crooning Yelp reviews, so intoxicating is his rich baritone, but the joy of a Mavericks show comes in watching each member contribute something essential to the whole.

There’s Perez’s fleet fingers and scorching riffs, occasionally obscured by his frenetic mane; McFadden’s ceaseless dancing, as his fingers find the chords pulsing beneath Deakin’s rock-steady drumming and Friedland’s kinetic bass playing; the trio of horns, tartly accentuating Guerra’s cascade of notes spilling from his accordion.

All of it collides to create one indelible moment after another, from the show opener “Back in Your Arms,” to the dizzying “Dance in the Moonlight,” to the bawdy “As Long As There’s Loving Tonight.”

The cumulative effect is not unlike slamming back a shot of tequila: The head spins, the heart swells and it feels like nothing in the world could possibly bring you down.

But, even in the giddy thrall of a Mavericks concert, reality can intrude.

As Malo began a solo rendition of the 1958 chestnut “The Wonder of You,” he alluded to the dramatic Senate hearing involving Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh.

“This week’s news has been sad on a lot of levels,” Malo began, as I heard someone shout from behind me, “Just play songs!”

"I see a lot of young men out here tonight, and on behalf of us up here, at least, it’s not OK to lay your hands on a woman — it’s bullshit." – Raul Malo

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"I see a lot of young men out here tonight, and on behalf of us up here, at least, it’s not OK to lay your hands on a woman — it’s bullshit," Malo said. "I see young women — they should not be afraid of other men, of their boyfriends. That’s bullshit.”

Malo’s heartfelt sentiment was met largely with fervent cheering.

It was not the last politically charged moment of the night.

As the band was being introduced before its last song, McFadden doffed his neon-orange jacket to reveal a T-shirt supporting U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke underneath, which prompted a chorus of boos, mixed with shouts of approval.

McFadden, undeterred, gave those jeering him his middle fingers, and said into his mic, “If it’s good enough for Willie, it’s good enough for me.”

With that, the Mavericks launched into the rowdy “All You Ever Do is Bring Me Down,” once again turning the gorgeously appointed Statler Ballroom into a full-blown dance party, as couples, full of liquor and good feeling, shook off the shadows of the real world for one last tune, lost in the rhythm and one another.