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July 10, 1996
The Mavericks are a band that everywhere you read the line goes
something like this: "A great band with great songs but just
don't get the airplay they deserve," and they aren't afraid to
poke fun at that. Such was the case as I was catching their show at
the Skyline Stage in Chicago, on this lovely summer evening, when
Raul Malo sarcastically says something like "We have a new
record out, 'Trampoline,' I'm sure you've heard it on your country
radio." The crowd laughs and Raul continues, "That's why
we had BR5-49 open up. We needed a band that gets less airplay than
we do!" The crowd chuckles continue.
A Concert Review
It's been two years since I saw The Mavericks, and they are one
of those bands that I truly enjoy, but unless I'm listening to their
CD I'm pretty much assured of not hearing them anywhere else, and
that's too bad in the stale country radio environment that has been
invading Chicago lately. I think I've figured out their problems -
Their songs are older style country, their songs are gospel, their
songs are mariachi-ish, their songs ring of Elvis, Roy Orbison,
Buddy Holly, and Tom Jones, their songs range from touching love
songs to danceable fun songs, and their touring band now has a guy
who plays the flute. What their songs aren't is simply that they
don't sound like most every "break-out artist, with a name I
can't remember but get too much radio play because they're cute or
have that boyish charm, but the songs sound just the same as the
other ones" artist on country radio (Do you get the feeling I'm
disgruntled with the state of country radio these days? I'm sorry, I
digressed). Alright, they still don't get the radio play they
should, but what about the concert.
Well, as the lead-in of Dean Martin's "That's Amore"
filled the speakers, I began to recollect that a Mavericks show was
different, and that different grew to a new level as "The
Havana Horns" joined the band this time around. Seeing the horn
section and knowing The Mavericks had two more years of experience
under their belt, I expected a lot more energy from everyone, but
kinda bummingly it took until nearly the end of the show for the
band to show it. Maybe it was the crowd that didn't seem to get into
it early, maybe it was because the band was just back from a break
in their schedule and getting their touring legs back on, but Jerry
Dale McFadden on keyboards was the only one who seemed to be having
a fun hour and forty minutes rather than just the last 20 minutes.
Don't get me wrong, it was a good show, but it could have been
Music-wise the concert was right on. Raul's voice sounded great
on songs like "Tell Me Why" and "The Bottle Let Me
Down," and the band wailed on their respective solos, but I sat
there and just wished that it looked like the band was having fun. I
sat liking their concert sound, with the mariachi sounding horns,
the almost swing feeling to the music, and I even wrote in my notes
that they were shifting sounds, reminding me of Tom Jones, and low
and behold the went into "It's Not Unusual," but they just
didn't reach that level of a "good concert" yet.
As the show went on it was time for Raul to showcase his vocal
talents during a little solo stint, of which "Fool #1" was
great, and the band came back for some joking and fun during the
"snippets" portion, playing the beginnings to a bunch of
songs but never remembering the words. Finally life seemed to be
coming into the band as they headed into "Sweet Dream
Baby," and as they hit "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" the
crowd finally started to show some life also.
Encore #1 came treating the crowd to a swinging version of
"There Goes My Heart" and "Melbourne Mambo"
(Mambo? You can't have a mambo at a country show!). I thought the
show was done and almost headed for the exits, but ohhhh nooooo, the
show took some strange turns to the delight of the crowd, and most
of all me. I felt the thumbs working from that downward position to
up as I high-pitched a sing-a-long to "The Lion Sleeps
Tonight," and waited for women's underwear to start being
thrown on stage as Raul blasted out the Engelbert Humperdink classic
"A Man Without Love." I knew something was still missing,
and as "All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down" started, I now
knew the concert was complete. One of the best turn-a-rounds of a
bad review to a fun show I think I have ever been at.
So, you see, The Mavericks might just be destined to a career of
little-to- no radio play, and why, because they just might be too
cool for radio. In the end I went away almost forgetting the first
half of the show and how they were "the least dynamic band I
have seen in a while." I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I
think Raul has a great personality to play the front man, he just
needs to get out from behind that microphone stand a little more.
Towards the end he made that venture, and the crowd responded. Just
me and an observation.
This review almost had a one thumb down, then shifted to a shrug,
then creeped to one thumb ("It's Not Unusual" and "A
Man Without Love" helped a lot), and slowly made its way to TWO
MAMBO THUMBS UP!! It started slow but sounded good, finally ending
with a fun-filled ending and sounding great.
Now, before I wrap this review up I do have to mention the
"getting less radio play then The Mavericks" BR5-49. The
last time I saw them was when they opened for The Black Crowes. Yea,
you read that right, The Black Crowes, maybe weirdly enough, on the
same stage. My impression then - rock-a-billy sounding, kinda like
the Stray Cats but different. My impression this time - To the boys
of BR5-49, enjoy your lack of country radio play because, like The
Mavericks, you have many things going against you - You sound too
much like traditional country, you have a steel guitar player that
kicks ass and flaunts it, you show way to much energy playing an
upright bass, your lyrics are too fun, and you either dress too well
in your suits and bolo ties or not well enough in overalls. BR5-49
is fun, looks like their having a blast, and although it took about
20 minutes, they finally got the crowd into their set. It's just too
bad the set was so short. I'm looking forward to seeing them again.
That's it for this one, I'm The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!