|Raul Malo's voice was on full display at the Paradise.|
"It's a Christmas show," Raul Malo said through teeth clenched in mock outrage after the opening songs of his show at the Paradise Wednesday night, before admonishing the crowd not to ask him to play anything else. As it turned out, they got a lot of Christmas, and a lot of the other stuff, too. Malo and his compact backing band were scheduled to play for 75 minutes, but the crowd kept yelling, so they kept playing.
Apropos of the show's billing, he sprinkled in a healthy amount of material from his new Christmas album, kicking things off by poking some fun at the yum-yummy lyrics of "Marshmallow World." "Jingle Bells" got the full lounge treatment, including stuttered J's on the chorus; a stately "Silent Night," with Ephraim Owens's trumpet providing a high harmony accompaniment to Malo's singing, put the magnificence of Malo's voice on full display.
Meanwhile, "White Christmas" was swinging and "Santa Claus Is Back in Town" bluesy and grinding. And for show closers "Blue Christmas" and "Feliz Navidad," Malo invoked another Christmas tradition and engaged the crowd in a singalong.
In between the seasonal offerings, Malo covered the gamut of his musical world. He drew from last summer's release, "After Hours," and, especially on his cover of "Cold, Cold Heart," he traded the record's lushness for an edgier sound (due in no small part to Owens's phenomenal trumpet, which provided the bulk of the lead solo lines through the show).
A jazzy "I'm Wondering" gave us Malo in full croon mode, a solo "Hot Burrito #1" showed why he has one of the finest voices in all of pop music, and "You're Only Lonely," with its Roy Orbison vibe, sounded like a song that was written for Malo to discover.
There was plenty of the Latin/pop/country gumbo that he developed with the Mavericks and has continued to visit in his solo career, too, from the raucous Mavs hits "Dance the Night Away" and "All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down" to the driving Latin grooves of "Sway" and "Surrender" to a fantastic version of Van Morrison's "Bright Side of the Road." That was music worth listening to at any time of the year.