The quasi-country band of the ’90s, The Mavericks, are back together after an eight-year hiatus. Their re-emergence with a North American reunion hit the Mohegan Sun’s Wolf Den Saturday night, and the group that won CMA awards in 1995 and 1996 for vocal group of the year had all the strength and passion of the old days.
The original quartet — lead guitarist and backing vocalist Eddie Perez, bassist Robert Reynolds, drummer Paul Deakin and longtime collaborator and keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden (having a mighty fine time) — backed lead vocalist and guitarist Miami-born Cuban cutie Raul Malo.
The band opened with three songs from their May release, “Suited Up and Ready.” And they were — Perez was dressed in a fine-looking suit with some marvelous rhinestone shoes, and Malo in his usual black and white. The two tore through big riffs and were tight and focused and knew what they were doing.
The entire nine-piece band supplied solid musicianship, but really, let’s face it, Raul Malo could be backed by the Boston Philharmonic, and it would be him we’d go to see. When the Mavericks were introduced in the ’90s, none of us knew one from the other, but it was Malo who seduced us — yes, even the men-folk. His writing, lyrics, various stylistic shifts and that voice are what put The Mavericks on the charts.
Saturday evening’s explosion of sound — heavy horns, vigorous maraca, accordion — was a show reflective of Malo’s influences. While you can’t pinpoint any specific genre, it was apparent that Malo, while having evolved artistically, has never lost sight of his roots. Flamenco and Latin rhythms created a sensual and soulful musical fusion that was a little bit country and a whole lot of party music.
As expected, The Mavericks treated the crowd at Mohegan to several past big hits — “Pretend,” “There Goes My Heart,” “O What a Thrill,” “Crying Shame,” “Dance in the Moonlight” — and the audience was delighted with the familiarity of it all. The band performed a handful of songs from “In Time,” the group’s first album of new material since a self-titled release in 2003, and the curious beats were well received.
Having had the pleasure of seeing Malo perform after The Mavericks broke up, in numerous indoor and outdoor venues all much larger than the Wolf Den, it’s evident the man can adapt to any genre or musician he encounters. This being said, the Wolf Den is not a perfect fit for Malo and the Mavericks. They are too powerful and at times the sound system was distorted and made it difficult to understand the lyrics.
The evening ended with an acoustic solo by Malo and segued into a raucous encore of the band’s biggest single to date, “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down.” Then it came, “Guantanamera,” perhaps the best known Cuban song and that country’s most noted patriotic song, and my favorite. An enthusiastic audience sang along — or in my case, pretended to.