IT’S hard to imagine there was much contention over which song should open the recently-reunited Mavericks’ first UK show – a Celtic Connections exclusive, ahead of next month’s US tour.
The Mavericks / Black Diamond Express
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
The first track on In Time, their forthcoming brand-new album, is after all called Back in Your Arms Again – apposite equally for the band’s own restored musical embrace, their wholehearted welcome from a sellout crowd of devoted fans, and lead singer Raul Malo’s delighted return to Celtic Connections, after three consecutive solo visits.
The Grammy-winning outfit’s founding trio of Malo, multi-instrumentalist Robert Reynolds and drummer Paul Deakin, with longtime collaborator Jerry Dale McFadden on keyboards, featured amid a nine-piece line-up also including hotshot lead guitarist Eddie Perez, plus accordion, sax and trumpet.
Their core signature fusion of sultry, snake-hipped Latin sounds with classic country styles was further souped up by a wealth of red-blooded guitar-rock attack, luxuriantly balanced by Malo’s gorgeously unfurling, often Orbison-esque vocals.
In a seamless mix of new and old material, other highlights from In Time included the pathos-drenched Born to Be Blue and the flamboyantly stormy Come Unto Me, while the band’s biggest previous hit, Dance The Night Away, naturally brought the crowd to its feet.
Edinburgh eight-piece Black Diamond Express landed the ultimate plum prize as support, and delivered an intriguingly concocted set ranging from sepulchrally dark’n’dirty blues to Waterboys-esque roots-rock.