The band from East L.A. performed this KDHX-welcomed concert of eclectic roots-based material inside the intimate space of the Sheldon Concert Hall, the 700-plus-seat venue in Grand Center. My friend, a first timer to the venue, turned to me within 90 seconds of the start of the set and exclaimed, "This place is awesome! It's like a church devoted to music."
For over two hours the sextet performed a career-spanning set that allowed the middle-aged audience of long-time fans to embrace leaving their comfort zone. They sang along, loudly clapped to the beat and danced in their seats to the blues-based rock and cumbias. At times the dancing spilling into the aisles as the room let its collective hair down.
The group, wearing a uniform look of black shirts over blue jeans, filled the small stage with their array of stringed instruments, drums and equipment. The left-handed Rosas (guitar), sporting his trademark black Ray Ban sunglasses, held down stage right as his long-time band mates Conrad Lozano (bass), Louie Perez (guitar), David Hidalgo (guitar) and Steve Berlin (keys/sax/flute) fanned out to his left. Joining them was the happiest drummer on the planet, Enrique "Bugs" Gonzalez. With his youthful exuberance and charm on top of his fantastic ability, the percussionist provided the band a jolt of adrenaline throughout the night.
An upbeat tempo began the evening as the band bookended their career with "Will the Wolf Survive" and followed with "Yo Canto" from their latest album, "Tin Can Trust." Creating the appropriate mix, Hidalgo then slowed the tempo down with the sorrowful, "When the Circus Comes" from "Kiko" and the '70s era Dylan-esque title track from "Tin Can Trust."
A few songs in to the set, Hidalgo advised, "I hope it's not too loud. Like folk music for the hearing impaired." The crowd reacted positively as the energy in the room demanded more volume. The band provided as they played their cover of "I Wan'na be like You (The Monkey Song)" from Disney's "The Jungle Book." Prior to the intermission the crowd respectfully remained seated, but this was no stodgy folk show. The music demanded you get out of your seat and dance -- and many did.
The music of Los Lobos celebrates not only the band's heritage, but also the history of rock 'n' roll and the many genres that crafted the form from the blues to R&B and folk to country. The dedication to that craft and their love for various musical genres has gained the award-winning band -- now well into their late 50s -- respect in several music circles. Yes, the gray hair has crept in, but Los Lobos retains the chops and musicianship like few other contemporaries. These wolves owe much to their long history together as amigos.
Midway through the second half of the set, Hidalgo advised, "This one is for Chuck Berry" as the band went back to the beginning of their career. Rosas looked at his bandmate seemingly confused as to whether Hidalgo had meant a Berry cover or not. He played the opening riff to "Johnny B. Goode" before pulling back to play "Don't Worry Baby" then followed with "I Got Loaded." It was a perfect one-two punch of rock 'n' roll rhythm 'n' blues from their 1984 T-Bone Burnett produced album "How Will the Wolf Survive?"
Keeping the classics rolling, the band ended its main set with "La Bamba," the Ritchie Valens classic they resurrected in the late '80s for his biopic, working in a medley of the Rascals' "Good Lovin'" for some good-time sing-a-long fun.
As the band remerged from back stage for the encore, Hidalgo, appreciating the loud applause said, "You're all on your feet, that's a good thing," and started back up from the high note from which they left off. Lozano, laying down infectious bass lines all evening, finally took the spotlight to sing the traditional "Guantanamera." His vocal prowess boomed through the room fully demonstrating his place within the band.
Like an exclamation mark on the end of a sentence, the group closed the show with "Mas y Mas," from their 1996 album "Colossal Head." Here, the group allowed themselves to stretch out further to provide each member a solo which further ramped up the energy and had the crowd cheering for more. Muchas gracias, Los Lobos.
Will the Wolf Survive?
When the Circus Comes
Tin Can Trust
I Wan'na Be Like You (The Monkey Song)
Hearts of Stone
Dream In Blue / 40,000 Headmen (Traffic)
Venganza de Los Pelados
La Pistola y El Corazón
Canto a Veracruz
Saint Behind the Glass
West L.A. Fadeaway
Don't Worry Baby
I Got Loaded
Medley: La Bamba (Ritchie Valens) / Good Lovin' (The Rascals)
Mas y Mas