I'm bright and early for tonight's entertainment, but there's already a really large crowd massed outside the London Palladium and it's not even Sunday (a small in-joke for those of us of a certain age). The Palladium is one of those iconic West End venues that slip in a gig or two to seemingly allow the cast of their latest musical a night off and tonight the 2200+ capacity venue is playing host to The Mavericks, which is an impressive achievement for a band who had their biggest UK hit back in 1998. Tonight's crowd obviously know their stuff as The Mavericks proved to be a hell of a live band, with a ton of cool tunes, and a singer for the ages.
Things were a little difficult for the band at the beginning with guitarist Eddie Perez, looking fantastic in a stunning white suit, experiencing serious equipment problems. He obviously couldn't hear a thing, and worse we couldn't hear him, which was a damn shame as Perez pulls shapes that bring to mind ex Ozzy guitarist Jake E. Lee in his prime. Things started to improve for Eddie and the band as those pesky technical gremlins eased and they began to hit their stride with a string of impressive numbers, including their take on the Springsteen tune 'All That Heaven Will Allow' originally on his underrated 'Tunnel Of Love' album. Highlights included 'Damned (if you do) ' from their latest 'Brand New Day' album and 'Back In Your Arms Again' both coming early in the main set as momentum began to build and Raul dedicated 'I Wish You Well' to his father, which proved to be an unexpectedly poignant moment for me personally. Keys man Jerry Dale McFadden gave Perez a run for his money in the sartorial elegance stakes with a red tartan check suit and hat ensemble that was very George Melly (another reference for older readers) and seemed a perfect fit for London Palladium. Jerry also does a great job of running around, leading the audience participation and still finds time for organ and piano duties. The Mavericks set featured some really great playing with additional Mavericks; Max Abrams (sax), Julio Diaz (trumpet) and Michael Guerra (accordion) all able to find plenty of room to shine.
Singer Raul Malo told us that they'd recently added a song to their set to keep the conversation going, as he put it, on gun control. That song was 'How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?' written by Bee Gees way back in 1970. A brief false-start caused by an amp malfunction failed to ruin the moment and Raul performed a vocal tour-de-force that was nothing short of breathtaking. The first hour of the set fairly flew by and we were hungry for more.
After what seemed like a very long break before the encore, an encore that would become almost as long as the main set, Raul returned solo and performed a lovely version of Dylan's 'The Times They Are A-Changin' which still seems as relevant as ever, especially if you can sing as well as Raul Malo, closely followed by a really terrific solo take on 'Brand New Day'. The band returned to the stage and they throw us a curveball with a choice of cover that proved inspired and unexpected in equal measure namely Pink Floyd's 'Us and Them' with Max Abrams treating us to a series of wonderfully extended saxophone breaks. The band were now on a roll as they delivered their biggest UK hit 'Dance The Night Away' while 'All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down' and, possibly the ultimate in crowd-pleasing anthems, 'You Never Can Tell' got everyone on their feet and allowed the evening to end on a high with the party in full swing.