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The Mavericks don't know mellow

Carnegie Library of Homestead, Homestead, Pa., April 19, 2013

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

Given that the crowd demographic was well past AARP eligibility age, it initially felt like The Mavericks show might be a mellow, shorter affair. Not so.

The nine-member touring ensemble came out looking like a gangster Mariachi band. Guitarist Eddie Perez rocked a zoot suit and fedora while bassist Robert Reynolds sported an ascot. The flamboyant entrance set the stage for a high-energy, 2-½ hour show with a dual encore that spanned more than 30 minutes.

Touring in support of "In Time," their first album in a decade, they solidified their triumphant return by blowing through the album's first three tracks in succession, Back in Your Arms Again, Lies and Born to be Blue.

Front man Raul Malo's distinctive tenor has gotten even more operatic with age, and the large band remains nimble at every position.

Having won a Grammy for best country performance, the band is typically classified in that genre. However, they are well known for shattering boundaries. On this night, the band showcased its Tex Mex flair with a superb horn section and accordionist that shined throughout. Only a few numbers felt full on country when Perez turned up the twang on the Telecaster.

Due to an earlier skateboard accident, drummer Paul Deakin had to take a break to rest his sore elbow on O What A Thrill. His equally skilled son emerged from backstage and didn't miss a beat.

The enthusiasm of the band and its crowd friendly accessibility made for an atmosphere conducive to dancing. Many of the patrons took to the aisles and floor and had to be ushered back to their seats. Malo showed his heartfelt appreciation by stating, "We've been gone a long time, and I'm so glad you came out to support us."

Fans wanting a dose of Malo alone finally got it when he began the first encore going solo acoustic on Here Comes the RainHe threw in an unexpected surprise with a cover of Springsteen's All That Heaven Will Allow.

Malo has not unfairly been compared to Roy Orbison in both style and tone. In the contemporary era, he draws a similarity with Zac Brown. They are two highly underated guitarists, songwriters and vocalists. Despite their fans' zealous devotion, Malo and The Mavs are unlikely to attain wide commercial success again due to airplay almost exclusively on independent radio. If they must remain one of music's best kept secrets these days, it seems they are fine with that, but let's hope it's not another 10 years before they are heard from again.

New Orleans based Seth Walker opened the show with 30 minutes of rootsy numbers.

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