Raul Malo sold-out his fourth Landmark on Main Street performance on Friday, and for good reason. Malo has, without argument, one of the very best voices in the music business today.
The show opened with a set by singer/songwriter Seth Walker. Walker, playing a well-used Gibson, offered up a great set demonstrating his voice, his excellent guitar work, and his strong song-writing skills. Walker is the sort of guitarist who is able to play a walking bass line at the same time he’s picking and strumming, making his sound very full. Highlights included several songs from his most recent CD, “Time Can Change” – specifically “Stronger Than You Need to Be,” “In the Meantime,” and the swinging “More Days Like This” which turned into an audience sing-along. Walker has a smooth, bluesy style that was much appreciated by the audience.
After a short break, Raul Malo took the stage, armed with just one guitar (a Gretsch, for anyone who was wondering), and accompanied by bass player Jay Weaver. In 2007, Malo released a CD of holiday songs, and he delighted the audience by starting off his show with a set of holiday music including “Silent Night,” “A Not So Merry Christmas,” “White Christmas,””I’ll be Home for Christmas,” (complete with a whistle solo), and “Marshmallow World.” Despite having been ill the day before, Malo’s voice was in fine form, as usual. His extraordinary range covers smooth velvety low notes, and yet he’s able to hit Roy Orbison-like high notes with honeyed ease. The truth is that Malo should be far more famous than he is. But those of us who get to see him at venues like Landmark are glad for the intimate performance, which wouldn’t be possible if he got the recognition he deserved.
After the holiday songs, Malo launched into some fan favorites, including “Lucky One,” “Games That Lover Play,” “I Said I Love You,” and my favorite, “Every Little Thing About You.” My parents, who were also at the show demonstrating his wide demographic appeal, were thrilled at Malo’s inclusion of “La Vie En Rose” and “Sway.” As well as being a powerful singer, Malo is a wonderful guitarist who plays with ease and with ample use of the “whammy bar” (for vibrato) achieving a marvelous retro sound.
For the final part of his set, Seth Walker joined Malo onstage for several songs, including two that will be on the upcoming Mavericks’ CD, coming out in January. (Malo will be touring with his former band The Mavericks next year). “Back in Your Arms Again,” and “As Long as There’s Loving Tonight,” were both co-written by Walker, and were the perfect showcase for his guitar skills. Walker can play with ease with or without a pick – which was demonstrated when he dropped his pick mid-solo and just kept right on going without missing a beat. The two musicians fed off of each other’s energy and the end of the show was powerful and exuberant. For an encore, Malo returned to the stage with just a ukulele, and played a simple, yet beautiful, version of the classic “Stardust,” complete with a whistle solo (and if you think it’s easy to do a whistle solo, try it at home).
Malo left the stage after an enthusiastic standing ovation from the crowd. Here’s hoping that Landmark Executive Director Sharon Maier-Kennelly will book him for many more performances in the future.