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The Mavericks
A Concert Review

August 20, 1998

Skyline Stage

Chicago, IL

A Review by
The Dude on the Right
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.

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 better.

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!!

 

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