Mavericks frontman Raul Malo likes his fans to party. So on Saturday night at the Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis, he urged his faithful to have fun. Never have you seen so many 40- and 50-somethings rush the stage of a stately theater.
The glee in Malo’s eyes, smile and hips was contagious as the Mavericks, reunited since 2012, proved once again that they are America’s best dance band. Whether the songs echoed Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, the Sir Douglas Quintet, various country singers or some unknown band from Cuba (where Malo’s parent emigrated from), the party continued for nearly 2 ½ hours.
Malo and the Mavericks were in a great mood from the start. After entering to the Minneapolis-themed “The Bird” by the Time (featuring keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden doing the Bird dance), the band tore into two numbers from this year’s “Mono,” its second disc since reconvening after an eight-year hiatus. “All Night Long” and the breezy “Summertime” got the party started.
The Mavericks have so many winning ingredients: Malo’s gorgeous and versatile voice, his crafty and resourceful songwriting, a nifty horn section, hammy Eddie Perez’s flashy guitar, McFadden’s fun dancing, Michael Guerra’s song-fueling accordion and a terrific rhythm section of swinging bassist James Inveld and in-the-pocket drummer Paul Deakin, an original band member dating back to 1989.
In his sequined suit, scarf and black cowboy hat, Malo cut a colorful figure. He charmed with solo acoustic ballads, his teddy-bear presence and his ability to connect with fans. He invited an exuberant couple from the balcony to come sit in two empty front-row seats. He answered a fan’s birthday request to sing “Besame Mucho,” accompanied by just his acoustic guitar and accordion. And, after he sang it, he reached down to the kiss the hand of the 76-year-old birthday girl, who had made her way to the lip of the stage. The classic, classical-inspired piece showed off Malo’s vocal range, power and emotional depth.
That was one of many highlights. Others included the dramatic “It Can Happen to Me,” the gear-shifting “As Long As There’s Loving Tonight,” the accordion-spiked “Dance in the Moonlight,” and the rollicking “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down,” which may be the happiest sounding kiss-off song ever.
The crowd standing (and dancing) in front of the stage rendered about the first half-dozen rows of seats meaningless to those concertgoers who wanted to sit and watch the concert. Security made no effort to keep the aisles clear. Even though it was the Mavericks’ third time at the Pantages in three years, it felt more like their State Fair gig at the bandshell, a gig which Malo mentioned fondly.
At least next time in the Twin Cities, the Mavericks will play a venue more accustomed to fans dancing – the Minnesota Zoo on July 21.