25-Mar-87 Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel, Providence RI

Show Review from the Providence Journal, 27-Mar-87:

Los Lobos Had Lupo's Howling
An Hour of Serious Tunes, Then an Hour of Dancing Fun

By Mike Boehm
Journal-Bulletin Arts Writer

For an hour at Lupo's, Los Lobos wove a tapestry of changing moods and styles that few bands have the range or the skill to create.

Then, the serious work done, the five-man band from Los Angeles celebrated with an hour-long party full of light-stepping border music, crunching blues and bouncy R&B. Los Lobos played music that swelled the emotions and offered a dancing good time.

Getting sweaty

The show opened with uptempo rhythm and blues and roots rock as the band quickly established its barroom. It was as if Los Lobos were stating up front that, whatever else they might be capable of, it all springs from being able to get sweaty in a nightclub.

But there's a lot more to life than living it up in a barroom. The third number was "Tears of God," a plaintive song of religious faith that found equal expression in David Hidalgo's singing and the gentle guitar interplay of Hidalgo's rippling strum and Cesar Rosas' sympathetic trills.

"Will the Wolf Survive?" was the first anthem of the evening, dextrous and forceful. "Is This All There Is?" finished the impressive trio of songs about feelings of displacement and separation rooted in the immigrant experience of the Mexican-American community from which Los Lobos sprang. It was a highlight, an extended workout that never lost its tautness or fire. Rosas set the tone with a shivering, trembling guitar lead that captured the nervous, disoriented feeling of the lyrics. Saxophonist Steve Berlin responded with a wailing lament. Hidalgo, a stoical, immobile figure whose emotions come out in sound rather than in visual display, picked up where Berlin left off with a stinging, high-note solo. The three-way interplay of guitars and horn went on and on, the dynamics subsiding but without any letup in tension.

Needed relief followed, with Los Lobos spelling it in Spanish and English. There was traditional border music, a western swing number, lively blues featuring Berlin's yakkety sax, and a sprightly, rocking run through Ritchie Valens' "Come On, Let's Go." Hidalgo's accordion work and the one-two kick of bassist Conrad Lozano and drummer Louie Perez evoked Cajun zydeco music on one piece; the common ground between Tex-Mex and Buddy Holly's early rock 'n' roll was evident in "All I Wanted to Do Was Dance."

Los Lobos exploited those twinings of musical roots. Instead of throwing styles out carelessly, they offered a logical, coherent progression. The country-flavored "One Time, One Night," for example, flowed into "Our Last Night," the western swing song with Hidalgo on accordion and steel guitar.

Party ended in high style

"Shakin' Shakin' Shakes" didn't live up to its name as Los Lobos tried to thunder to a close, but they followed it by jumping into R&B heaven on "Set Me Free (Rosa Lee)," a vibrant, celebratory performance anchored by Lozano's pumping bass work. The party ended in high style, with four-fifths of the Roomful of Blues horn section blowing through the second and third encores. A 17-minute jam on Willie Dixon's "Three Hundred Pounds" was loose and ornery, a real roadhouse shootout in which Bob Enos' trumpet, with its Jericho blasts, proved the most potent weapon.