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“Ken Whiteside and Alice Peacock”

Here’s a link to the very good interview of Raul Malo on Thursday, September 21, 2006, by Jon Grayson of KMOX 11:20 AM, St. Louis: Click Here To Listen...

“Review of Raul Malo Concert, Friday, Sept. 22, 2006”

A "small but mighty" crowd (RM's description) greeted the band at The Sheldon in St. Louis. It was one of the most amazing evenings of music I've ever spent.

Alice Peacock opened. Unfortunately, she had laryngitis, and consequently was limited in her vocal range. She performed for about 30 minutes. I'd like to hear her at her best; she's a nice pianist.

Raul Malo and the band appeared right at 9 pm. The man was resplendent in black greatcoat, open-collar white shirt, a coral-orange neckerchief, black satin vest and black pinstripe slacks. Tom Lewis, his very tall drummer, sported a purple/black checked suit with black shirt and light color tie. Robert Chevrier wore a black suit with red shirt, and Jay Weaver, seated in the back with that well-used big old upright bass, was all in black.

Raul started with Indian Love Call, made most famous perhaps by Slim Whitman. He of course was in fine voice, and had the crowd at "When I'm calling you..."

He was not playing the green Strat he'd used at other shows this summer; he had a blue Gibson that looked like an ES-300 series.

On the contemplative "I'm Wonderin'," Robert played a truly tasty and melodic solo after the first verse, and on "Fool Such As I," a more upbeat tune, let loose with a little Art Tatum barrel-roll. Nice!

Do I have to say on all these songs how good Raul sounded? You all know this: his voice is better now than it's ever been--tone, range, phrasing, maturity.

"You're Only Lonely" came next. Raul played his guitar without accompaniment on the first verse, then the band joined in. He soared through those changes in the vocals, and he held it around every curve of every note. That's not an easy song to sing for anyone, and he of course absolutely nailed it.

Next was "Games That Lovers Play." RM prefaced it: "One of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard." He played the big-sounding solo with the tremolo-bar tweaks with aplomb. And Jay Weaver's bass line really came out front on this, leading the accompaniment into the tune.

Robert introduced "At Last" with a thoughtful piano intro, and RM again just nailed the vocal. Incidentally, next Wednesday at The Sheldon, Etta James is appearing; I guess they'll probably hear that song again that night.

Raul said after "At Last," "Let's play something we've never played before... We've got their money," he teased, as he addressed Robert. "What can they do to us?" Then they played something I'd never heard them play before. I think it was called, "She's Not You." It was nice. As well-put-together as it was, I have to think they'd played it before. Or maybe not.

One of my favorite songs was next as a part of a two-fer, as Raul broke into the mid-60s Al Martino standard, "Spanish Eyes." Oh, what a thrill that was. Yes, because the second part of the medley was "O What a Thrill," paced a bit more slowly than The Mavericks version, more mature, and very enjoyable. Seriously, to me, this was one of the highlights of a show full of highlights.

"Please Surrender" was the next tune, followed by "Dance the Night Away," which, again, had more of lente tempo than the original. Robert did a great job with filling vocals and RM did some more tremolo-bar solo work, getting that wavering sound out his sustained notes. He's really adept at that technique on the git-fiddle.

An old time favorite was next, the more up tempo "Bring Me Down," which had the crowd clapping, more or less rhythmically, and singing along, of course. Again, RM had a nice solo in the lower registers, having to reach across from the top strings to the tremolo bar and hold the note as he got the effect. Robert got to emulate the Flaco Jiminez solo from the original country-Conjunto Mavericks version. Another special song!

St. Louis concert legend Beatle Bob was dancing up a storm on that one, back at the top of the orchestra section.

Well, here was another: "I Said I Love You," with a really cool guitar and piano intro that I'd never heard before. Robert was in effect the horn section on that one, and the audience helped the master vocalist out again!

"St. Louis is a nice city. It has a nice baseball team. I'm jealous," RM intoned between tunes. "I come from a city that doesn't have a baseball team." A wag from the audience, obviously a Cards fan trying to make light of the Cubbies and their perennial hapless plight, said, "Chicago?" That of course got a laugh from a St. Louis crowd.

Next, Elvis was on stage alone, as the band took a break. No, that was Raul, as he sang "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You." The king would have been proud, and he would have liked the no-accompaniment, reverb-dripping solo that RM tastefully picked out.

"You know, everybody asks me, 'Are you gonna sing a Roy Orbison song?' Even when some big guy with a deep voice asks, it still sounds like (whiny voice), 'Are you gonna sing a Roy Orbison song?'" Someone asked "Are you?" and he shot back, "No!" Then of course, he broke into a solo version of "In Dreams," that was the absolute one single song I will never forget. Raul's voice soared through that tune, which, in terms of difficulty to sing, makes "You're Only Lonely" look like a sandbox outing. Um, um, um!

The band returned for an old song they've made new, called "Sway." It had a Latin rhythm, with Tom Lewis on cowbell and Robert with a full two-fisted attack.

Raul had mentioned this tune in a perceptive, insightful interview he'd done on KMOX radio on Thursday night ( then look under the 'Two Johns No Waiting' section and hit play--host John Grayson did a good job on this).

Next was "For You," from the new CD, and it was--well, am I out of superlatives yet? I was sitting there thinking, this is amazing! And I get to come back tomorrow night and do this again! Incidentally, I'm NOT taking notes.

Wow! "Every Little Thing" followed that (people had been yelling for it all night), and it too was off the chain (I am out of superlatives)!

The band retired, and the crowd pulled them back for a four-song encore.

The first was an instrumental, where Raul played the guitar as I'd never heard him do it. "Never on a Sunday," where he did this jazzy swingy kind of sound on the verses, then changed to a Spanish guitar style on the choruses. That was really cool. And he had the crowd doing what I can only describe as a hum-along. What sheer joy!

It got better. RM said: "I want to hear my good buddy Robert sing." After Robert finished <<en francais>> the first verse of "La Vie en Rose," the 40s Edith Piaf classic, Raul told him, "Keep singing. I don't feel like singing right now." And he took off the Gibson, and bolted down into the audience, and sat down in an empty seat in about the eighth row. As Robert started in again, you heard a loud "BOOOOO!" out of the eighth row. Robert interrupted between lines to complain about the "heckler," then finished the tune.

Back on stage, Raul said, "Wow, that was cool. I don't ever get to do that!" as Robert just shook his head. "What are we gonna do next?" Tom Lewis suggested "Sabor a Mi," and they did it, with RM leading with a big jazz guitar opening that melded into the Spanish-language vocal. Just beautiful.

The last of the 21 songs of the night was Buck Owen's "Crying Time Again," a simply gorgeous country tune done simply, and out of respect that Raul has for that recently-deceased musical giant. Raul had said was on the country album they have already recorded, to be released in 2007.

Wow! Wow! Wow! Of course, Mr. Malo (and later, Mr. Chevrier), were most gracious in meeting and greeting fans, including several from this board--some from here in St. Louis, some who'd traveled a good distance to get here, through just about the worst weather we'd had all summer (nasty thunderstorms, high winds).

And we're gonna do it again tonight. There are still some tickets available today at the Schnucks and Macy's stores, or at the doors, which open at seven. Show's at eight. Even if you can't make it, call a friend here in St. Louis. This was one of the most amazing evenings I've ever spent.


"Saturday night party in the Louie!"
(First posted on the Raul Malo board on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2006)

Whew! Did I die and go to heaven? Am I dreaming?

Did we just have two nights of Raul Malo at the classic Sheldon Concert Hall, both evenings unusual in their own circumstances, but both total artistic successes as great as anyone could possibly ask for?

Sorry about this folks, but please indulge me in a few thank-yous.

First, thank you to all of you who read the earlier (long!) post about Friday's show, and who wrote such kind and encouraging replies! It was truly my pleasure if I was able to share some of the atmosphere with you.

Now, a huge thank-you to everyone who attended. I can safely say you went home happy with those two Hall of Fame-level performances. Your support helps Wild Moose Productions to make a donation to SALT Corporation, so they can continue the good work they do in Haiti, and that they've done in New Orleans.

A special thanks to Wild Moose Productions Vice-President Brittany Rowley, whose many contributions helped make these events a success.

Thanks too, to Clyde and Pauline Mouser, Fredo Derazin, and the rest of the group at SALT. You're really special folks, practicing what you preach!

Thanks to Laurie Hasty and Brian Erdmann and his people at The Sheldon (for making the shows at that beautiful venue possible and come off flawlessly, respectively), Lori Singleton at MetroTix (for all her help and good advice), Lynn Stewart of WIL-FM92 (a true RM fan who did a great job promoting the shows on her station the last two weeks, who emceed Saturday, and who KNEW ALL THE LYRICS to every Mavericks or solo RM song and sang many of them as she sat beside me--O What a Fan!), Kelly Brazil and Jon Grayson at KMOX (respectively, for setting up the interview with Raul that is linked in the Friday review, and for conducting the interview but not using the same ten questions everyone else uses), Eduardo Vigil (for setting up RM's Spanish-language Saturday interview on KDHX-FM 88), Beatle Bob (St. Louis concert legend who "danced the night away" with RM on Friday--what a character in all positive ways!), Daniel Durchholz (for that excellent preview in the Post-Dispatch Thursday), and Jill Moon (Alton, IL Telegraph, for a nice 24/SEVEN piece on Raul).

Thank you to the members of this board who attended (I got to meet Fran--a first-timer who got a great double-dose-- Julie, and Christi, among others. If I met you and didn't list your name, I apologize!).

Thanks to opening act Alice Peacock, whose voice was much better Saturday. What a kind, gentle person who is a tough-minded performer. She couldn't talk Friday morning, but she took the stage both nights and gave it everything she had--what a trouper! She sounded good Friday and better Saturday. Many thanks also to Hugh Haller, her manager/husband.

A heartfelt and special thank you to Raul, Robert, Jay, and Tom, who were the most gracious, kind, positive, encouraging, professional people anyone could want to meet or work with. They were this way on stage. They were all this in meet-and-greets. But they are that way behind the scenes and before the show, too. No big heads. No prima donnas. No bull. No big-timing people. Always a kind word for the people who are helping them out. All just real people, with a great attitude. Also, thanks to road manager Jeffery Osborne, who helped me in a hundred ways, and who has one of the best jobs on the planet.

Finally, a great big thank you once more to my brother Greg (who introduced me to The Mavericks many years ago, over my objections at the time--THANK YOU, BROTHER! I LOVE YOU, MAN!!!).

On Saturday, Smokey Robinson was next door at the Fabulous Fox Theatre, but his bass player apparently didn't make it to St. Louis, so they cancelled the show (it's now set for Sunday, September 24). There were some unhappy patrons out there—how do you let that happen?

So Greg decided to go out on the sidewalk in front of The Sheldon and woo in patrons holding a RM poster we'd used to advertise here in St. Louis. He talked ten people into coming in and buying tickets! I owe him dinner on top of thanks!

RM played basically the same set list as Friday, to a crowd at least twice as large. He was dressed similarly to Friday, except for a black shirt.

On Saturday, though, he was toting "The Country Gentleman"--that big, beautiful white Gibson ES-400 series with all the gold hardware on it and the inlaid guard plate. He used it at Belcourt, and I've seen pictures of him using it with The Mavericks in the late 90s. What an absolutely beautiful guitar! What a different and wonderful, almost jazz-like sound!

I asked Jeffery Osborne last week if Raul could bring this guitar, and he said he didn't know, RM had been playing the Strat a lot this summer. But at the show, Jeffery's funniest line was, "Yeah, he's playing it tonight. I told him last night, 'White shirt, dark guitar.' Tonight, 'Dark shirt, white guitar.'"

Okay, I thought it was funny.

Raul doesn't need my advice about guitars, and he'd sound great if he was playing the ukelele off the "I Said I Love You" video, but that instrument projects a dreamy, echo-like sound that fits his current shows perfectly. He still gets all those tremolo effects that I wrote about Friday. And when he really wants to get after it--"I Said I Love You" and the last two tunes last night--the man can rock out on that thing!

On Saturday, I had a seat where I could better hear RM's guitar amp, so I got to listen to him play as well as see him. On my left was Lynn Stewart, singing away on almost every song! On the right was Greg, off of whose face the grin never disappeared the whole night! Wow! I was happier than a pig in slop!

Raul's voice was just as soaring, wonderful, precise, and melodic on Saturday as on Friday. The man is incredible, but here I am preaching to the choir.

What songs were different from Friday? "O What a Thrill" didn't have "Spanish Eyes" in it. Oh darn it, anyway, right? The song was still outstanding.

Raul sang "Besame Mucho," which of course had every female in the place swooning and melting into a puddle. 'Course they'd kiss him a bunch! He caressed those lyrics in Spanish, then sang the last line in English as he's wont to do.

He also popped in "Siboney," which he called an "old Cuban song about gettin' some. All Cuban songs are about gettin' some. If there are sighs, you already got some."

That song requires quite a bit of vocal range, which Mr. Malo negotiated in his customarily effortless fashion, singing soulfully and earnestly. The band wasn't on stage for this; he accompanied with a dreamy, echo-like, soft effect on the guitar. Wow!

He also did a soulful, meditative version of "Moon River," without accompaniment. He said it was "the most beautiful song I've ever heard." Now, that Henry Mancini '60s show classic is the most beautiful song I've ever heard.

RM said he "screwed up the words" in the middle of "Feels Like Home." He stopped. Made a few funnies about professionalism, and just working with what he had. Started over, stopped again, laughing, and of course, by this time, the rest of the band was in on it too, especially Robert. You all know those looks Raul gives the audience, sorta sheepish, sorta teasing, and completely endearing all at the same time (think dimples, ladies, and those playful eyes).

"Last night I was teasing about Alice--saying she was drunk when she was really SICK. I said it then. Karma. Now it's comin' back on me!"

Alice Peacock popped out of one of the stage doors and took a bow, and the crowd roared.

Then Raul said, "OK!", wheeled and stomped off the stage, swinging his arms wildly as he went, right out the other stage door; the band, without skipping a beat, hopped right into a swinging jazz version of "It Had to Be You." Robert took a solo. Jay took a really nice bass solo. As he was winding through, here came Raul back through the stage door, carrying a notebook with lyrics in it, gesticulating as he walked. He got to the mike, opened the notebook, and hurled it down to the floor. "There!" he said, as the crowd cracked up.

Tom Lewis said, loud enough to hear, "Why didn't you wait so I could get MY solo?"

RM began "Feels Like Home" again, finished perfectly, looked down at the book, and said, "I can't see the words down there anyway! I'm just glad we got through that one."

"Bring Me Down" featured a chorus of about 300 helping RM out. "I Said I Love You" and "Every Little Thing" too! And a bunch of others.

"La Vie en Rose"--IF there is a more beautiful song than "Moon River," maybe this is it--featured Robert's gorgeous piano opening and French first-verse vocal, followed by Raul singing the rest in English--wow! And this followed "Ciboney" and "Moon River," three in a row!

"Sway," with Tom on the cowbell, and Robert with a crowd-pleasing solo that earned him a special ovation, followed those three songs.

Two of the band's final numbers were "Every Little Thing" and "For You," and they rocked out on both of those, with Raul employing a sharper attack on the guitar.

One other little vignette just to advise you of what a talented individual this man is. The Sheldon keeps this big upright bass in their "green room," the artists' backstage preparatory area. I was there getting Lynn Stewart to the right place Saturday night. Tom was over whacking out a few licks on a case, just warming up. And then someone starts playing the bass. I mean, PLAYING the bass. As I'm talking to Lynn and a couple of other people, I'm thinking, wow, Jay is really warming up on that thing. That sounds like a Charlie Mingus solo! He is on fire! I finish the conversation and turn around, and there is Raul Malo playing that bass. And I'm not kidding, he was tearin' it up! I stopped in my tracks, dumbfounded, and just listened. Another amazing moment from an amazing weekend that I will never forget so long as I live. I don't need to tell you that there aren't many like this man, you already know the secret. Enjoy him, folks. He is as they say in Greek, "monogene"--one of a kind!

Everyone everywhere else on the board would be angry, but--could we just make Raul the house band at The Sheldon?

I dunno 'bout all that, but you all can book this--we gonna do this again in St. Louie next year!

God bless you all, Godspeed to the band to Madison, Chicago, and beyond, and thanks for reading this!

-Ken Whiteside