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The Mavericks scorch the night

The Willbur Theatre, Boston, February 19, 2015

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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With temperatures plunging outside to single digits and the streets of downtown wallowing in piles of the omnipotent white stuff, it's a good thing that The Mavericks decided to play inside.

Only it wasn't so much the thermostat that warmed up the night. More like the opening night of The Mavericks' Mono Mundo Tour, which worked on a multitude of counts.

Most importantly, The Mavericks always have been a band that seems focused on the joy of playing and performing. They may not have the deepest songs out there - most of them deal with varying facets of love. But when a musical potpourri of country, Latin, blues, jazz, ska, rock and probably a few more styles are thrown into the pot of a group that knows it has no stylistic limits, the bodies get shaking and moving early and often.

This was an important week for The Mavs. They just released the ultra satisfying new disc "Mono" on Tuesday, which also covers a variety of genres, did national TV with Seth Myers on Wednesday and opened the new tour.

The Mavs placed a lot of faith in their audience. That could be the only explanation in starting off with "All Night Long," Summertime (When I'm With You)" and "Stories We Could Tell," all songs from "Mono."

No problem there because even if not familiar with them, in the voice of Raul Malo and his band mates, these songs come alive and smoking. Jerry Dale McFadden, in sartorial splendor with a burning orange suit, socks and hat gets things moving on his keyboards. A two-piece punchy horn section of sax and trumpet time and again gave a jazzy big band feel with standing behind signs saying "Mo" and "No" (as in "mono").

In fact, The Mavericks have a tremendous amount of confidence in "Mono" period, playing 12 of the 13 songs, leaving out only "Fascinate Me."

The Mavericks did play some of their best-known songs, such as "All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down" and "Should've Been True," but if expecting a greatest hits sort of show, forget it. For an acoustic solo number, Malo played "Mona Lisa," made famous by Nat King Cole, a song that fits his lovely tenor quite well. During the second encore, the band played the soul instrumental "Soulful Strut."

This was part of what the night so enjoyable and exciting. You weren't exactly sure what might be coming next.

Another aspect of the show that was quite different was the absence of long-time Mavericks bassist Robert Reynolds, who was, in effect, fired by the band this fall due to substance abuse issues. Upright bassist James Intveld, who looked sharp in a white jacket, ably stepped in and helped out on backing vocals. Long-time accordionist Michael Guerra added the right touch as well numerous times.

With some groups, sidemen can serve as window dressing where you can barely hear them. That was not the case with The Mavs where horns, accordion and everyone else contributed.

Eddie Perez continues being sharp on lead guitar with some stinging moments, some twang (this concert, though, wasn't high on the straight ahead country sound, save for "Out the Door" from "Mono" and a few older songs).

As for McFadden, he may have a second career going if his primary means of income ever fail. He was a hoot dancing about the stage during "All You Ever Do is Bring Me Down," moving and shaking all of his body parts. That guy got style (although he also is spry with his keyboards as well).

And there's Malo, of course. He's always been a very strong singer and an affable presence. As he approaches 50 in August (he told the crowd he's celebrating his 50th all year long), Malo and mates may not be factors when it comes to the charts, but they have not wavered from following their musical muse.

The Mavs closed out the second encore in a lengthy, but never ever dragging 140-minute show, with "(Waiting for) The World to End" from "Mono." The song ends with the line "have no regrets and don't forget/We're all waiting for the world to end." Just as bouncy and vibrant as the start was with "All Night Long," the night may have come to an end, but it sure made one have only a few regrets about sneaking back out into the cold. Scorching musical nights can do that to you.