19 October 2003
Some bands just pass you by. I was aware of The Mavericks in the CD racks, and had heard Dance The Night Away on the radio (who hasn’t?) but they were part of the HMV New Release section that my eyes scanned over without pausing. Then I saw a website review of them playing in Nashville from a guy whose opinion I respect, and realized they were playing in Bournemouth the next week. It was a “why not?” saunter to a concert with a band I knew very little about. So often those are the best ones.
The show was at the Bournemouth BIC and we had seats way high up in the terrace because the place was packed to the rafters. Clearly there were a lot of people The Mavericks hadn’t passed by. The vocal sound during the support act was excruciatingly bad – it was probably not Kevin Montgomery’s fault, but it totally ruined his act. I find in half the reviews I write I’m moaning about sound mixes. That comes from having spent three summers doing lights at summer shows. It makes you realize that while some halls require more work, bad sound isn’t forced upon an act most of the time.
When The Mavericks started, Raul Malo’s lead vocal distorted and fed back on every loud bit or high note. Every line ended in screeching microphone feedback. After the first three songs, we decided it wasn’t worth hearing anyone with the sound that bad – you could not have guessed that they had bass guitar on stage for a start. We went out and downstairs, and I managed to find the tour manager. I had a few words about the need to sound check from the terrace as well as the floor, and instead of telling me to F- off as I expected, he walked up to the terrace and came down grimacing. Then he took us into the main hall and found us chairs right by the sound desk. Suddenly you could hear bass guitar and the lead vocal wasn’t distorting anymore! Anyway, Raul Malo must be one of the best singers on the road today and the guy exudes more good vibes than any singer I’ve seen.
The Mavericks were fabulous. They did a magnificent “Air That I Breathe” which was from the new album too. No one in the late 60s could have got the sound. Other standouts were a solo Besame Mucho by Raul Malo, and even better “Puff The Magic Dragon as Roy Orbison would have sung it.” That was Malo’s dscription. And it was. Raoul Malo and k.d.lang are the only singers I’ve seen who can channel Roy Orbison perfectly.
Another highlight of a great show (apart from Dance The Night Away) was the last encore, Bright Side of The Road. Having seen Van Morrison do it recently, the comparison was fascinating. I’d say Van’s band are quite noticeably better instrumentally in every department except guitar (Van did have David Hayes on bass after all), but The Mavericks’ version was just such good fun music, and the lead vocal easily matched Van’s. That takes some doing. (Actually Van throws it away nowadays, so it was better). It’s unusual to see playing that’s actually quite simple but also supremely confident and cheerful. So, yes, I walked straight into the lobby and bought the album. Then the next day I bought the Greatest Hits.