A Genre-Bending Night with The Mavericks

To say that The Mavericks have a signature sound is a bit of an understatement – after seeing them live at the State Theatre in the City of Falls Church on Friday night, it’s clear that they’re a group of musicians who can transition from one genre to the next in a matter of notes, and love every second of it.

In nearly three decades, the Grammy Award winners have crafted a body of work that’s a hybrid of country, rockabilly, and ska with Latin and Zydeco influences. Hits like “Dance the Night Away, “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down,” and “Here Comes the Rain” helped them gain mainstream popularity in the 90s, but they’ve also cultivated a fiercely loyal following over the years who are drawn to their eclectic style.

With an eight-year break and some changes to the lineup, The Mavericks are still going strong with two original members at the band’s core – lead singer and guitarist Raul Malo and drummer Paul Deakin. And in the past two years, they’ve put out two new albums – 2013’s In Time and this year’s Mono.

Friday night’s show was a high-energy mix of new songs from Mono and fan favorites spanning their musical career. Malo and Deakin, joined by band members Jerry Dale McFadden (piano/organ) and Eddie Perez (electric/acoustic guitar) and four other talented musicians on guitar/accordion, stand-up bass, trumpet, and sax, brought a big band vibe to the State Theatre stage.

There’s a sense of showmanship to The Mavericks – they’re polished, and they know how to charm a crowd. Malo, clad in all black and a cowboy hat, has sort of a Tex-Mex look and Perez – who used to tour with Dwight Yoakam – has a brooding, long-haired rock n’ roller thing going on. Meanwhile, McFadden was sporting a red-and-white striped suit with a polka dot bow tie and bright orange socks that made a guest appearance when he managed to kick his foot above the keys while jamming.

In fact, McFadden was the consummate performer. He played the entire set – just shy of two-and-a-half hours – with a huge, infectious grin on his face, and spent more than half the songs doing some variation of the twist. At one point, he even jumped up onto his piano stool to show off more of his sweet dance moves.

Their sound was incredibly tight, with all eight musicians completely in sync for sometimes six or seven-minute songs. Their hits are great fun, but I was more impressed by their new songs like “All Night Long,” which feels like a nod to Malo’s Cuban roots with a Cuban Son vibe – they could easily be kicking it with the Buena Vista Social Club on this one – and “Let It Rain (On Me),” a sweet country ballad that showcases Malo’s almost operatic voice (his cover of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” is unreal). They also played a stunning cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” that truly rivals the original.

The Mavericks are one of those rare bands that are actually getting better with age. There’s nothing redundant about Mono, and they have the life experience to know how to put on a great show and enjoy it just as much as the audience. Case in point – to wrap up at the State, they took a group bow and began to dance onstage together as Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” played. These guys know how to have a good time, and I dig it.

Check them out here: www.themavericksband.com.