Raul Malo, Birchmere Music Hall, Alexandria, VA- 12/9
“This is not the Bing Crosby Christmas extravaganza, said Raul Malo with a chuckle just before he took the stage at the Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, Va. on this chilly, rainy Sunday evening. “We do a couple Christmas songs and then sprinkle them throughout the show. It’s a little naughtier than” other holiday shows.
And a lot more eclectic, in the best possible sense, too.
Consider Seth Walker, who played a red-hot opening set of the blues that put the audience in the mood for the melodious tones and humor that would follow.
About 30 minutes after Walker left the stage, humorously promising his “closer” would be out soon, a dark jacket, white shirt and cargo pants clad Malo, accompanied only by his bass player, Jay Weaver, took the stage, greeted the crowd and launched into a jaw-droppingly beautiful rendition of “Silent Night.” Malo had been under the weather earlier in the week, but his deep, resonate vocals were as crisp and clear as a snow filled night. So enraptured was the Washington, D.C.-area crowd that all was almost silent, indeed, on this night as Malo sang.
But master showman that he is, Malo turned the mood right around.
“All you grumpy, jaded, non-Christmas liking music people,” said Malo with a smile before starting to play and sing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” “It will be over soon!”
The crowd was nothing if not appreciative as many noticeably swayed the renditions of “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” and “Marshmallow World,” weaving humorous asides – “No one gives a shit about this. You just think about cheap TVs from Black Friday. I don’t care; I am singing this anyway” – through the songs’ actual lyrics much to the delight of the near-capacity crowd.
But for all the crowd’s joviality, the mood turned increasingly energetic when Malo launched into his own songs including “Lucky One,” “For You,” and “Sway.” At one point, the mood became so heightened that a petite, gray haired woman clad in denim jumped from her seat and sprang around the rear of the club. Credit some of the Latin flavor Malo infuses into his songs for the “Festival” antics.
Those that came to hear Malo play music from the upcoming Mavericks album may have been surprised when he didn’t oblige.
“I thought about that early on, and I’ll talk about this on stage, but really we have already been playing out as the Mavericks and I want people to hear them like that,” he said before the show. “I wanted this to be a completely different thing, otherwise what’s the point? There are just two of us on stage and you’re not going to reproduce the same sound. You have to play what sounds good for the night.”
And although the gray haired woman was the only one who was visibly moved to show her joy by dancing, the audience radiated smiles and good cheer throughout the evening.
“I have a list of suggestion. It changes every night,” said Malo of how he selects songs for these shows. “I kind of like it like that. I’ve always done it that way. You kind of have to. It’s not going to be the same every night – there are different people, different environments, and different nights of the week. You don’t know who is in the crowd.”
Certainly on this night, though, it was clear they were all die-hard Malo fans.