Saturday night at the Statler Ballroom, as The Mavericks launched into “Summertime (When I’m With You),” the floor began to move beneath the crowd's feet. That it felt as though the entire room was dancing — a couple of thousand fans pressed together in a room often on the verge of sweltering — was not surprising. After all, this is a band whose sound is synonymous with a good time.
The ease with which Raul Malo and his bandmates — guitarist Eddie Perez, drummer Paul Deakin, bassist Ed Friedland, keyboardist (and Mesquite native) Jerry Dale McFadden, accordionist Michael Guerra, trumpeters Lorenzo Molina and Julio Diaz and saxophonist Max Abrams — whip through a nearly two-hour set, scarcely pausing to let one song fade before another begins, feeds that joy, a giddy sense of scarfing down sweets, unable to sate yourself.
If such a sentence reads strangely, then you’ve likely not had the good fortune to find yourself in a room with the Mavericks and feel the visceral pleasure of watching one of America’s sharpest bands illustrate precisely how they’ve endured for three decades.
The Mavericks aren’t strangers to Dallas — Saturday’s appearance came just slightly less than a year after their last headlining gig, in the same room — and this trip through town, ostensibly pegged to the band’s 30th anniversary, was no less a wild, woolly and wonderful showcase for the group’s singular, irresistible style.
“We’re out celebrating 30 years as a band,” Malo said early on, “and I gotta tell ya: None of that would be possible without Texas. We can’t do this if you don’t show up, so thank you for showing up.”
Traversing the breadth of their eclectic, genre-blind catalog and taking care to include the highlights (the show-opening “All You Ever Do is Bring Me Down,” “What a Crying Shame,” “Dance the Night Away” and more recent favorites like “All Night Long” and “Back in Your Arms”), Malo and company also dusted off a few choice covers, including Ray Price’s “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me” and Waylon Jennings’ “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.”
“Part of celebrating 30 years is going back and finding songs that meant something to you,” the gregarious Malo told the raucous audience, reminiscing about “driving around Miami with my dad in his Buick” before launching into Freddy Fender’s “Before the Next Teardrop Falls.”
However, many of Saturday’s most indelible moments didn’t require a single word. When the Mavericks locked into an irresistible groove, as they did during “All You Ever Do is Bring Me Down,” “Come Unto Me” and the wheels-off finale, “As Long As There’s Loving Tonight,” the band seemed to be speaking to one another — and to the audience — through their instruments; sizzling guitar licks, piano runs and squeezebox solos abounding.
No recounting of a Mavericks performance would be complete without a brief tribute to the velvet-wrapped, honey-dipped, bourbon-soaked voice belonging to Malo. It remains a potent weapon in the band’s formidable arsenal, and one which wraps itself lovingly around lyrics full of feeling. To hear the singer croon “Blue Moon” or belt “Volver Volver” is to witness one of music’s most life-affirming spectacles.
Eschewing their traditional extended encore, the Mavericks filtered off the stage one by one after about 80 minutes, but just as Malo hit the edge of the stage, he beckoned everyone to come back, and so the party continued. Saturday’s set seemed to sail past in the blink of an eye, and there we all stood in the Statler Ballroom, filmed with perspiration and listening to Willie Nelson croon “Dallas” on the house PA.
That this celebratory evening would elapse so quickly seemed fitting — 30 years has whipped by for the Mavericks, a band once ahead of its time but now seizing its moment, a melting pot musical extravaganza making America’s concert venues shake with satisfaction night after night.
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