Review: The Mavericks' 25th anniversary tour lights up the Belly Up

This post has been updated. See note below for details.

It’s rare enough that any band is still around after a quarter century, still recording and touring. What made the Mavericks’ 25th anniversary tour stop Tuesday at the Belly Up in Solana Beach all the more impressive was that the heart and soul of the richly vibrant 2½-hour show wasn’t vintage songs from the group’s first go-round in the 1980s and '90s but the sterling material from its latest album.

Last year’s “In Time” brought  together all the elements that originally made the Mavericks such a music connoisseur’s delight but that were sometimes scattered across inconsistent material.

The Florida-formed, Nashville-based Americana group, which also plays Thursday at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, is the American musical melting pot in action.

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The Mavericks’ songs, mostly celebrating the ups and downs of love and romance, span a breathtakingly broad swath of sources, including Bakersfield country (“There Goes My Heart”), operatic pop (“O, What a Thrill”), big-band boogie woogie (“Things You Said to Me”) and effervescent Tex-Mex (“All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down”).

All those earlier numbers held up beautifully, and they felt of a piece with the generous sampling of “In Time” songs, including the ebullient opening track, “Back in Your Arms Again,” the foreboding call to romance of “Come Unto Me” and the swinging jump blues of “As Long as There’s Loving Tonight.”

The focal point of the music is lead singer Raul Malo's exceptional vocals. With his deep roots in Cuban/Caribbean/Latin music, he crafted a forceful meditation on loss with “Every Little Thing About You,” which builds in what seems like one long crescendo from a spare opening emphasizing the loneliness of the lyric (“Twenty days, twenty lonely nights gone by/A million reasons left to cry”) to a powerhouse climax of emotional recovery (“Better days lie ahead 'cause life goes on/Time will heal and make me strong”).

It was all delivered con mucho gusto by Malo, along with fellow founding members Robert Reynolds and drummer Paul Deakin, longtime leade guitarist Eddie Perez and keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden and adjunct touring members Michael Guerra (accordion), Jay Weaver (bass), Max Abrams (trumpet) and Paul Armstrong (tenor sax).

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Malo is also a highly accomplished guitarist, and his own solos demonstrated expansive musical chops that allowed him to quote from sources as disparate as Tommy Dorsey and Carlos Santana.

After a seven-year break, during which Malo released several solo albums, the Mavericks reunited in 2012 at the Stagecoach Festival in Indio, a rejuvenation that led to building on where they left off in terms of writing and recording new songs.

For this anniversary tour, the band also reached back for one of its few forays into social commentary, the title track off its 1992 commercial breakthrough, “From Hell to Paradise,” which is loosely inspired by the journey Malo’s parents and other refugees made from Castro’s Cuba to U.S. shores.

The band’s sound is magnificently diverse, and it was projected in a vast improvement over the poor mix the group received in last year’s stop at the El Rey in L.A. But perhaps the most remarkable impression from this performance is the sense that 25 years in, the Mavericks not only have fully hit their stride but they also seem to still be on the upswing.

Update at 2:55 p.m.: An earlier version of this post described the Mavericks' show Thursday at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood as sold out. There are still tickets available.


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Follow Randy Lewis on Twitter: @RandyLewis2 


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