The Mavericks' Golden-Voiced Singer Raul Malo Shines at Los Angeles Tour Stop: Concert Review

Review
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Seven songs from the Mavericks' stellar new album Mono made their way into the Miami band's two-hour show Wednesday at Los Angeles' Fonda Theater, providing ample proof of how the group's country-meets-the-Caribbean sound has matured over nearly 25 years.

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The third night of a U.S. tour that runs through late July -- the Mono Mundo trek started in Europe -- the Mavericks' show was front-loaded with Mono material heavily accented with Jamaican rhythms of the early '60s, specifically ska and its forefather, blue beat. Easing seamlessly into the band's vintage-sounding swing and jump R&B material, the band sounded more like a product of New Orleans than south Florida. Through it all, leader Raul Malo added varied guitar work that alternates between classic twang, surf music and, on a nylon-stringed acoustic, the warmly stinging tone associated with Willie Nelson.

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Known for the risky marriage of island rhythms, Latin horn riffs and traditional country -- the unique sonic references of first-generation Cuban immigrants tethered to dyed-in-the-wool Americana -- Malo and his seven musicians push those bonds further into a sound that is generally buoyantly delightful. “Summertime (When I'm With You),” which set the mood for the entire evening, was the sound of a great band having fun onstage and worked well alongside songs with similar aspirations, among them: “O What a Thrill” from the early 1990s and more recent work such as 2013's “Back In Your Arms Again.”

The back half of the 21-song concert favored older, more straightforward material, with Malo's expansive and beautifully controlled tenor front and center. A highlight: “I Should Have Been True,” which showcased Malo at his most Roy Orbison-inspired.

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While Monothe Mavericks' eighth studio album in the 24 years they have been recording, is another step forward musically, its lyrical substance hews close to the rest of the band's songbook -- bookends of love and broken hearts and all the steps between those two emotional states. But deep down, it's really the beat that drives this band. And even with back-to-back love-lorn ballads (“Sabor A Mi” and “Here Comes the Rain”) and a grinding blues (“The Only Question Is”), the band never strayed from the sound of a festive party.  

Set List:

“All Night Long”
“Summertime (When I'm With You)”
“Stories We Could Tell”
“O What a Thrill”
“Back In Your Arms Again”
“Fall Apart”
“Pardon Me”
“What am I Supposed to Do”
“What a Crying Shame”
“I Should Have Been True”
“Foolish Heart”
“Out the Door”
“The Only Question Is”
“Because of You”
“As Long as There's Loving Tonight”
“Dream River”
“Here Comes the Rain”
“Sabor a Mi”
“Every Little Thing About You”
“Dance in the Moonlight”
“All Over Again”