The Limelight, Belfast
Tuesday 6th February 2018

It’s impossible to categorise The Mavericks’ music. I thought I had them pegged as a crossover country/Latin dance band but that does such a disservice to one of the finest live bands I have seen perform in a long time. There is so much more to them.

They have produced a number of excellent studio albums but live they are a different animal.

Shortly after 8.00pm, the band took the stage to the strains of the Can-Can – why, I still haven’t figured out. For the next two hours, it was difficult to keep still as the band ripped through a set incorporating rock, country, salsa, folk, and rockabilly. All gelled into an irresistible and infectious blend of Latin-tinged music that made it impossible not to move to.

The band dressed immaculately although the sharpest dressed man of the night award must go to guitarist Eddie Perez. Resplendent in a white dinner jacket, cravat, Cuban heels, he had a crease in his black trousers that could slice bacon. Every bit the archetypical Latino lothario, he produces some scintillating guitar playing, which is matched by others in the band as they take virtuoso turns at delighting the packed audience. Accordion solo follows trumpet solo after a sax break as each musician pushes each other to better their bandmates.

Heavily swathed in brass the sound of hit after hit shakes the Limelight, ‘Damned If You Do’, ‘Crying Shame’, ‘As Long As There’s Loving Tonight’. And the crowd are loving it.

As a long time Springsteen fan, I am very choosy when it comes to covers of his songs, but ‘All That Heaven Allows’ is given a new swagger by the band and sounds totally refreshed.

The real star of the evening is the golden tones of lead singer Raul Malo, who so effortlessly switches from soaring ballad to Cuban beat based dance. And it’s fun! The interplay between Raul and his seven-piece band is superb and the talented ensemble all seem to be enjoying working as a unit, and their individual time in the spotlight.

This is no band living off past glories. The set slows for a slower reflective set of songs including the beautiful, Grammy-nominated ‘I Wish You Well’ written for Malo’s father. The voice soars, only for him to have to stop mid-song and tell two idiots close to the stage to shut up. This, unfortunately, is an issue that continues to plague gigs. The admonishment is cheered loudly by the rest of the crowd, and Raul continues and finishes the song.

Such interruptions do little to dampen the ardour of the audience who roar their approval of a beautiful rendition of Neil Young’s ‘Harvest Moon’. From here on in, the band push the pedal to the board and the tempo is hiked up again with the bluesy ‘Ride With Me’. The crowd doesn’t want it to stop but sadly it must and the evening ends with their signature tune, ‘Dance The Night Away’ being given a terrific outing.

Tonight we were treated to a band at it’s vibrant best, dosed with a blend of Cuban and Latin beat, they play music with a smile and an infectious joy that just makes you want to party. And party Belfast did!