It’s amazing how free beer can really jumpstart a party. That’s exactly what happened last night for the first of two free State Fair shows by the newly reunited Mavericks at the Leinie’s Bandshell (they play there again tonight at 8:30). Not that the Florida-reared trad-country stars themselves were having any trouble getting started.
With an impressive nine-piece lineup, including a couple horn players, they hit the stage at full swing with the Sir Douglas Quintet-flavored “Back in Your Arms Again” and then went straight into their swaying, melodic new single “Born to Be Blue” (from an album due Sept. 25). Then came a string of older, slower favorites, including “Pretend,” “There Goes My Heart” and “What a Crying Shame,” the Orbison-ian true-blue charm of each one sounding as timeless Wednesday as they did on record 15-20 years ago.
As is often the case at free fair stages, though -- where audience members are often just looking for a place to sit down -- the crowd at first appeared stiff as all the free yard sticks everyone (inexplicably) carries around at the fair. The turning point came about 50 minutes in, when a couple fans walked up to the stage carrying beers, which the clearly surprised musicians then proceeded to pass around to each other.
“They sure are nice in Minnesota,” beamed the still-golden-voiced singer Raul Malo, who suggested to his bandmates they were getting the beers out of sympathy. “We must’ve looked pathetic up here.”
It was pathetic it took fans that long to get up dance. They did so right away thereafter with the boogie-woogieing “As Long As There’s Lovin’ Here Tonight,” perfectly followed by the “Dance the Night Away.” Here’s betting it doesn’t take that long to get things going tonight at the bandshell. For a taste of what to expect, try out this clip from the band's first reunion gig back in April (after about an eight-year hiatus).