Within the first few songs of their two-hour set at the Hard Rock Rocksino last Saturday night, front man Raul Malo congratulated the Cleveland Indians on their World Series run. “There were two of us rooting for you guys,” Malo said. “I was one of them.” This, of course, only endeared the GA standing room crowd in the pit even more. When The Mavericks took the stage they were greeted by an unusual sight: The Hard Rock removed the first fifteen rows and created a mosh pit, of sorts, if one of those can be set up for a mostly-middle aged crowd of spectators there to view (and listen to, of course) one of those bands that fly under the radar yet have a massive following.
The Mavericks is one of those bands that defy classification. Like many of today’s “Americana” bands, this outfit combines classic country riffs with Latin mariachi influences and then top if all off with a dollop of good ol’ rockabilly. Roy Orbison himself would swoon over this bouillabaisse.
They employ one hell of a western-swing horn section, sometimes accompanied by a lilting accordion, and then in the next song toss some Latin-flavored Honky-Tonk for your perusal.
The Mavericks were created in 1989, making them old enough to be eligible for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But somehow they’re one of those troupes that sit on the periphery of greatness, perhaps because of their hard-to-finger sound. They charted fourteen singles on Billboard’s Country charts and unceremoniously called it quits in 2000. They reunited for a tour in 2003 but went silent until the late aughts. The band reunited in 2011, releasing 2013’s comeback album In Time and, more recently, Mono.
Front man and band founder Raul Malo’s voice harkens back to the great crooners of the late ’50s and early ’60s. He channels Roy Orbison, Eddie Cochran and even the contemporary trill of Vince Gill. His guitar work wasn’t too shoddy either, being upstaged at times by Eddie Perez, the outfit’s dandy on lead guitar. Perez’s wild man hair shot back and forth, up and down, as he caressed the strings of his axe.
Reminiscent of some other nostalgia-tinged bands like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Malo and company had the audience on their feet throughout the night. While their style may be emblematic of a bygone era, their musicianship and talent place them firmly in the 21st century.