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Timothy Finn blogs about the Kansas City music scene

The Mavericks give full house at Knuckleheads a long, memorable evening

04/20/2014 12:08 PM

04/20/2014 6:31 PM

There are bands and performers with lofty reputations for putting on bucket-list concerts — high-octane live shows loaded with entertainment, great songwriting and world-class musicianship. The Mavericks deserve to be included among all of them. On Saturday, they filled Knuckleheads for the second straight night, drawing about 1,200 fans and unleashing almost 2 hours and 45 minutes of music drawn from an array of genres: rockabilly, jazz, country, blues, Mexican folk and old-time rock ’n’ roll. Raul Malo is the band’s leader and incomparable lead singer, and all night he beamed like a guy who’s getting paid handsomely to do what he was born to do and what he loves to do more than anything. His mood was contagious. The crowd, which filled the outdoor stage and spilled into the street, danced and sang along all night. The Mavericks are celebrating their 25th anniversary, so the vibe was both festive and nostalgic. It also turned into a family night. Malo acknowledged his parents, who attended both shows, and he brought out his two sons to accompany him on two numbers: Dino, who played drums during a tribute to Kansas City and its music heritage (“Shake Rattle and Roll/Kansas City”), and Max, who played accordion on a splendid version of “Volver Volver.” Malo also mentioned that the band watched the Royals win their fifth straight game Saturday afternoon, which prompted one of the dozen or so loud ovations. The set list comprised more than 20 years of music, from their “From Hell to Paradise” album to their most recent, the excellent “In Time,” released in 2013. It also included some Malo solo material, such as “Sinners and Saints,” and several covers. One of those was a standout version of Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee,” which Malo introduced by telling a story about the Mavericks opening for Marilyn Manson so many years ago (“We thought, ‘Yeah, we’ll play with her.’ ”). Others: A solid version of Bruce Springsteen’s “All That Heaven Will Allow” and “Around the World.” On that one, Malo, channeling both Ricky Nelson and Roy Orbison, had to stop while the evening’s only train rumbled by, blowing its whistle repeatedly. The five-man band was supported by four others, including a two-man horn section. Malo gave everyone plenty of spotlight, none more than lead guitarist Eddie Perez, who unleashed some Led Zeppelin licks and riffs right before the band launched into “La Bamba,” another highlight. By the time they finished, Saturday night was about to turn into Easter Sunday, apropos for a band that called it quits for about seven years before reuniting in 2012. Revived and resurrected, they have become a must-see band and seem to be enjoying every minute of it.

Set list

Tell Me Why; The Things You Said to Me; Back in Your Arms Again; All Over Again; Pretend; There Goes My Heart; Here Comes the Rain; Sinners and Saints; Missing You; Okie From Muskogee; From Hell to Paradise; Every Little Thing About You; Fall Apart; La Bamba; Dance in the Moonlight; As Long As There’s Loving Tonight. Encore: Besame Mucho; Around the World; I’ve Got This Feeling; What a Crying Shame; Dance the Night Away; I Said I Love You; Shake Rattle and Roll/Kansas City; Volver Volver; All That Heaven Will Allow; Come Unto Me; All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down.

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