The only thing about the Mavericks that's country, based on the most common understanding of the word, might be Robert Reynolds' hat. From all appearances it's the same one James Garner wore in his long-running 1950s TV western -- titled "Maverick," appropriately enough.
Setting aside a couple of shuffles that rang with spot-on Buck Owens authenticity, the band that rocked Bakersfield's Crystal Palace Thursday night was straight out of Havana, with stops in Kingston, Jamaica; Miami; and Memphis, Tenn. The Mavericks are all that and a little more.
The Mavericks, reunited (for the most part) after a nine-year hiatus, and touring in support of their first album since 2003, produced a raucous, joyful noise that had the packed house bouncing with appreciation.
The band delivered a flawless, 26-song, 140-minute set built substantially around their new record, "In Time," but sprinkled with favorites from their 22-year recording history.
Lead singer Raul Malo, his impeccable Roy Orbison tenor intact, made it look like they'd never left. With original rhythm guitarist (and former bassist) Reynolds at his left flank and original drummer Paul Deakin behind him, Malo had the crowd at hello. The quintet, fortified with four additional touring Mavericks on horns and accordion, opened with "Back in Your Arms Again" and didn't let up until a barmaid interrupted to deliver tequila shots all around. Then it was right back to work.
The set pulled equally from "In Time" and the band's earlier work, including most notably 1994's "What a Crying Shame."
An early highlight was "Born to Be Blue," which featured Malo trading off with Michael Guerra's vigorous accordion. But the Mavericks continued to one-up themselves with soaring takes on "There Goes My Heart," "Somethin' Stupid," the 1967 Nancy Sinatra/Frank Sinatra hit they covered on 1995's "Music for All Occasions," and perhaps the night's best song, "What a Crying Shame." Keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden was a lively presence throughout.
Lead guitarist Eddie Perez, who some might have initially mistaken for a leaner Jack White, added an electric richness to "As Long as There's Loving Tonight," with Malo contributing some articulate fretwork of his own.
Malo, who occupied his time during the Mavericks' long recess with six solo albums, stepped out midway through for a tender acoustic mini-set. That gave way to a mash-up that describes the Mavericks as well as any words might -- the Cuban standard "Guantanamera," morphing into the Isley Brothers/Beatles hit "Twist and Shout."
The band's substantial encore began with 1995's "Here Comes the Rain" and closed with the only song the band could have possibly closed with in the House of Buck: "All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down," a rollicking accordion-driven freight train of a tune that Buck's own aunt once mistook for proof of his comeback. And, in a not-insignificant way, it was.
The show represented the Mavericks' first appearance in Bakersfield since 1999 (although Malo passed through twice in the interim). After the concert Malo declared that this isn't a one-off thing.