By Dianne Davies
Boy, is this guy the epitome of cool or what? Even the set was cool – a small sideboard and standard lamp with a “cigarette” constantly smoking in the ashtray behind him immediately created a nostalgic Fifties ambience.
Support act Kim Richey gave us a selection of her own songs first, which I enjoyed very much. She has written many excellent songs for other singers, and her opener “Drive”, recorded by Trisha Yearwood (with backing vocals by Mr Malo himself!) is one of my all-time favourites. She has a good voice and an engagingly gauche personality, and although ably accompanied by Will on electric guitar, I would love to see her with a full band.
After a short break Raul took the stage, explaining that the purpose of this short tour was to bring to the British fans a show which he has done on a number of occasions in the States, extending the acoustic set which is always a short section of the Mavericks’ shows. Raul is planning to record an album of Spanish songs (apparently NOT “like Ricky Martin or Geri Halliwell!”) in January and a number of these were showcased, along with some standards like “It’s Now or Never/O Sole Mio” with amazing operatic flourishes and a tear-jerking “For the Good Times” duet with Kim Richey. Mavericks’ favourites were given interesting low-key treatments such as the Eastern sounding minor-key “What a Crying Shame” (Raul joked that he would soon be taking gigs in Turkish Restaurants!) and “Dance the Night Away” had a wistful, longing sound.
Raul was accompanied on many numbers by new Maverick Jaime Hanna on Spanish guitar and other stringed instruments, and Dennis Britt on percussion. Both were excellent players, adding superb virtuoso touches to Raul’s wonderful soaring vocals. A much less frenetic pace than the Mavericks’ shows enabled Raul’s sense of humour to really come through, with Willie Nelson and Tiny Tim impersonations and a fantastic impression of a British drunk discussing the French beef crisis – Raul thought we all hated Americans and was most amused to read in the paper “Twenty-one reasons we hate the French!”
On a serious note Raul was visibly moved when he explained his inspiration for the song “Children”. It was written after a Miami newspaper report about a little boy who had been beaten and starved to death and left in a dumpster. Perhaps the line dancers should listen to the words next time they get up to do their merry waltz to this heartfelt protest song!
Along with Kim Richey, another surprise guest was brought on at the end – none other than Raul’s friend and native “scouser” Ethan Allen, who had the honour of joining Raul on “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down”. All over too soon, it was truly a privilege to be there for this sublime, funny and moving show. Raul Malo is in my opinion the greatest popular singer alive today. Meeting Jaime, Raul and his proud parents after the show concluded a dream of an evening, I certainly hope he’ll do it again sometime.