The Mavericks Adelaide Hall, Toronto ON, September 15

The Mavericks Adelaide Hall, Toronto ON, September 15
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It was as if they'd never left. One of the few worthwhile bands to emerge from Nashville during the dire new-country era in the '90s, the Mavericks reunited after an eight-year absence last year, and new album In Time showed they hadn't missed a beat. This highly entertaining show also reaffirmed they remain one of the very best live bands around. On record, the Mavericks occasionally flirted with sounding too polished, so the performance setting is their best forum. The fact they expand to a nine-piece band (with horn section) for gigs in comparatively small venues shows that the reunion is far from a cash grab, and the wide smiles across their faces throughout the set showed that they are indeed having fun.

Rather than just playing a perfunctory few songs from the new disc amidst a greatest hits set, the Mavericks played a good chunk of In Time, and thankfully such new new material as "Born To Be Blue" (featuring main man Raul Malo is full Orbison-esque voice), "Dance In The Moonlight," and "That's Not My Name" merits the exposure. The band was in full Texas swing on '90s hit "There Goes My Heart," followed by a killer rendition of "What A Crying Shame" boosted by five-part vocal harmonies and strong guitar interplay.

Six songs in, Malo thanked the highly appreciative crowd for "still being here," and the set then happily detoured into more eclectic musical terrain. Boosted by horns and resonant guitar, "I've Got This Feeling Inside" brought to mind the Rascals or the Grassroots, and was a set highlight. The following tune began with a mariachi-style trumpet solo, then featured fiery surf meets twang guitar.

Lead guitarist Eddie Perez shone throughout (he even threw in a Zep riff at one stage), while Malo is no slouch as a guitarist either. Extroverted keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden added to proceedings visually and instrumentally, as did founding member/rhythm guitarist Rob Reynolds (one-time spouse of Trisha Yearwood, trivia buffs). The horn section was occasionally lost in the sometimes murky sound mix, while stand-up bass and accordion effectively augmented the Latin-tinged tunes especially, as on a partial dip into "La Bamba."

It's best to view the Mavericks as a roots band rooted in the '50s and '60s. They draw upon classic country, early rock'n'roll, pop crooning, and Tex-Mex and Latin elements, somehow creating a seamless signature sound that deserves to see them placed alongside the likes of the Blasters, Los Lobos and the Sir Douglas Quintet as quintessential American bands.

The first of many encores featured Malo alone on stage, and that oh-so-rich voice induced goose bumps (and declarations of love from his female fans) via his take on "Here Comes The Rain," followed by his full croon on a Slim Whitman tune ("the kids are going crazy for this one," joked Malo). His comrades then re-joined him for a fresh take on the classic "Guantanamera" that somehow segued into "Groovy Kind Of Love" and a full-blooded rip through "Twist and Shout." More Canadian Mavericks dates will soon be announced. Their return is very good news indeed.