Note: Setlist through "Shakin' Shakin' Shakes" based on a recording of the show and is complete. Everything after this point (final two songs and encores) is based on the below concert review and an intuitive guess based on typical "20-minute jam" from encores of this era.
Concert Review from the Houston Chronicle (26-Apr-87):
Shaking Los Lobos makes crowd tremble
By MARTY RACINE, Staff
All anybody wanted to do was dance, so a standing-room-only crowd of 1100 finally took to the aisles Friday night at the Maceba Theater, rooting home East Los Angeles Chicano-rock band Los Lobos through a two-hour set of grand and glorious Southwestern swing.
Theaters are not the best venues for this kind of celebratory music, and while the Maceba has its visual charm, its use for Lobos ' third Houston visit exposed a weakness in the Houston market: The lack of a major large showcase nightclub for midlevel touring acts. Places like Fools Gold, Cardi's and Rockers go in and out of business, while such steady clubs as Rockefeller's and Fitzgerald's, which hosted the band before its recent popularity, are too small.
What's wrong with a theater for rock? No smoking, so that the restrooms are thick with fumes. No bar. No dance floor. No hang-out room.
The show was promoted by new concert company Hook, Line and Sinker, which saw to it that security was properly relaxed. Given the crowd and the music, the company's first big event was a success.
Los Lobos is touring on their new album "By The Light of The Moon", the follow- up to "How Will The Wolf Survive?", which further explores the unlimited potential in a synthesis of lowdown garage rock, Mexican folk songs, Tex- Mex "Norteno" and American regionalisms such as blues, country-western and even Zydeco.
As such, this band is unique, taking their vision out of the barrio and into the Anglo pop world, which reimburses it with fresh ideas, especially in the arrangements.
Ironically, the opening act was Dave Alvin & The Allnighters. Alvin was guitarist with the Blasters several years ago when that pioneering L.A. roots- rock band invited Los Lobos to open shows for them.
The Allnighters turned in a strong, country-tinged set, laced with Alvin's new twangy rockers and some wild versions of his Blasters compositions, "Border Radio" and "Long White Cadillac". Border Radio was totally stripped down from its Blasters' rock-shuffle groove into an eerie folk-country tune.
But the Allnighters did not do a sound check this day, and it showed, as John "Juke" Logan's keyboards often overwhelmed Alvin's otherwise blistering guitar leads in the sound mix. Alvin's lead vocals sounded raw and muffled. He was, however, suffering from the flu, and said back in his dressing room that he was heading to the hotel post haste.
It might not have helped that Los Lobos and the Allnighters went all night baying at the moon in Austin following Thursday's show there and arrived here a couple hours before curtain time. Or that both were to play Saturday at famed Tipitina's (there's your nightclub) in New Orleans, in the middle of the annual New Orleans' Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Between Austin and New Orleans, Houston was odd city out as far as extracurricular activity.
But in Austin Los Lobos were stopped by a midnight curfew. At the Maceba they jammed until 12:20 a.m.
With David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas presenting a strong double-frontman combination both on guitars and vocals, the band opened with "Evangeline, Tears of God" and "How Will The Wolf Survive?"
On the fourth song, "Is This All There Is?", bassist Conrad Lozano and drummer Louie Perez helped pry open an extended jam, and the dynamics got the crowd's attention.
That clinched it. Sensing the breakthrough, Rosas invited everybody to stand, and hundreds crammed the aisles down front.
Material from both albums and an early EP,...And A Time To Dance, followed, as the band sequenced among hard rock, flowery folk tales and rhythm and blues, aided by saxophonist Steve Berlin. It was an ambitious mixture of styles.
On the harder numbers, Rosas and Hidalgo played electric guitar. On the folkloric pieces, Rosas played "bajo sexto" and Hidalgo button accordion, which unfortunately fed back several piercing times.
Among the highlights: "One Time One Night," an inspirational honky tonker; the blustery "My Baby's Gone; The Hardest Time; Shakin' Shakin' Shakes; Set Me Free (Rosa Lee)" and a closer of the hard blues, "Don't Worry Baby".
They returned for an encore of the sweet "Prenda del Alma", then again for a terrific 20-minute jam that harkened to the Grateful Dead before ending with a crescendo of the Chicano-rock national anthem, " La Bamba". What a finale. What a complete and romantic concert.
Pre-show Article from the Houston Chronicle (19-Apr-87):
Hot as a pistola/East L.A.'s Los Lobos are taking the country by storm
By MARTY RACINE, Staff
HOW Will the wolf survive?
The East Los Angeles Mexican-American band Los Lobos posed the question two years ago in the title of their debut album. In their recent followup, they answer: "By The Light of The Moon".
Taken together, it's the poet's way of honoring the misunderstood and forgotten, those with no real political voice, providing meaning to those who are just getting by while others are living it up. It's giving dignity to all God's creatures, support for vanishing cultural traditions, and redemption to those who survive another anonymous work week to work again.
In the end, survival and small daily triumphs add up to a bittersweet celebration, for no band in popular music today possesses such a mixture of gorgeous, flowery melodies and supple rhythms with raucous rock 'n' roll as do Los Lobos - the Wolves - who return to Houston Friday to play the Maceba Theater. They last played here, more than two years ago, at Fitzgerald's nightclub. But don't worry, said drummer Louie Perez: "People are going to get up and dance wherever we play; that's just the nature of our shows."
As befitting a unique band, Los Lobos comes by their music through curious if organic circumstances. Multi-instrumentalists Perez (also a guitarist), David Hidalgo (lead vocals, guitar, accordion, lap steel, percussion), Conrad Lozano (bass, "guitarron") and Cesar Rosas (lead vocals, mandolin, guitar, "bajo sexto") had been friends at Los Angeles' James A. Garfield High School 10-15 years ago. (The Anglo is saxophonist Steve Berlin, who's toured here with the Blasters and joined Los Lobos about three years ago.)
"To begin with, we were rock 'n' roll guys," Perez told me back in February 1985. "I was a fan of Jimi Hendrix. We all played (separately) in various garage-type rock bands. And it wasn't until we had to do cover tunes that it got real frustrating. There wasn't, and still isn't, a forum for original music in East L.A. We had to be satisfied playing backyard parties and in the garage. Naturally, all of us in our respective bands wanted to make some bucks, and the only direction to go for that was to sound like the radio and play weddings. But that got kind of old right away, and we decided to do something different."
Forgoing the wedding circuit, the four gravitated together "for the fun of it, just buddies," Perez said. As a matter of artistic and personal growth they also began exploring, through records, the Tex-Mex "Norteno" music and Mexican folk songs of their parents' generation that used to embarrass them as teens when they had their pals over to check out the latest Blue Cheer or Deep Purple album. Hidalgo took up the accordion, and they all investigated such traditional instruments as the "bajo sexto, guitarron, quinto, hidalguera" and "vihuela", in addition to lap steel and mandolin.
And then they discovered, amazingly, that "Norteno", music of the South Texas border area, lent itself to the Farfisa organ sound of American rock 'n' roll developed in Texas in the '60s by Sam the Sham and the Sir Douglas Quintet - which in turn opened the doors to various hybrids of American roots music such as blues and country-western. Said Perez: "We discovered we were getting a lot more satisfaction from this casual group. It was exciting again. "We had gone through this whole growth period of learning a wealth of regional folk styles of Mexican music. And when we came back around to rock 'n' roll we had more educated ears and were more discerning. Our tastes were more refined and we were more particular in our selection of songs. We hung onto those cultural roots, but we expanded not only to include Mexican-American culture but also to bring in more American-type regional music. Then we just mixed it all together."
After years of trying to sound like somebody else (an affliction in rock not confined to East L.A.), Los Lobos had forged a sound all their own. The catalyst that took this out of the barrio was a parallel development across the golden hills in Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles, where other misunderstood and forgotten souls from working-class suburbs found a compatible environment in punk and roots rock. It is also where the rock journalists went to discover new bands.
This melting pot of updated genres is the very essence of pop music. Often that dilutes or sweetens the components for mass consumption. With Los Lobos , pop gave their music strength and resiliency. This particular new music scene, said Perez, "really broke down all the rock-star stereotypes. You could sit there and talk with (other musicians). Through Dave Alvin (who coincidentally opens for Los Lobos in Houston) we became friends with the Blasters, who liked what we were doing. They invited us to play with them on a couple of local shows, which more or less opened the door to us."
Los Lobos garnered glowing reviews, which brought out the A&R scouts from major record labels. They signed a deal with Slash, the L.A. indie label which had the Blasters and which would sign a promotion/distribution agreement with major label Warner Bros. The company issued an EP, "...And A Time To Dance", followed by "How Will The Wolf Survive?", an evocative, forceful LP produced by Fort Worth rocker/songwriter T-Bone Burnett. The band took their music on the road, into foreign environments which would provide a whole new context. In the ensuing two years, their song "Anselma", from "...A Time To Dance", won a Grammy; the boys participated in Paul Simon's Grammy-winning "Graceland "album and others by Bob Dylan, Roomful of Blues and Elvis Costello; had one of their songs recorded by Waylon Jennings; and even found time to write and record "By The Light of The Moon", the most joyous rock album of the season. It was also one of the most anticipated.
"We were touring through the end of '85 because of the different releases throughout the world (Japan, Australia) of the "Wolf "album," Perez explained in another phone interview two weeks ago from Providence, R.I., where they were to jam that night with Roomful of Blues, the major East Coast rhythm and blues band. "That brought us back home at the beginning of '86 with basically no (new) material. We had (By The Light of The Moon) in the can in October but waited 'til January to release it because of the holidays. "So while it seemed that we were working on the new album for two years, it really was more like eight to 10 months."
Perez acknowledged that he and co-writer Hidalgo (Hidalgo/Perez wrote seven of the new songs; Rosas two, including a collaboration with producer Burnett) "were working on material as we were recording it. The negative is that it takes a long time to do it that way. The positive is that it means we're working up real fresh material." As a clue to their method of writing, Perez discussed the Hidalgo/Perez composition "One Time One Night", deservedly the LP's first single: "That song had an interesting beginning. A lot of times David and I will work up ideas - song ideas - before setting them to any kind of lyrical or melodic form. But this song, what happened, David had worked on a melody and chords and had an idea for a song with no lyrical consideration. And I had been working on a - whatever you call it - a poem, with no real musical consideration. I mentioned it to David and he said, `Well, I've got this song here.' "We put them both together, and it was melody and structure meeting the rhythm of the piece I was writing. With very few changes the song came together.
"As far as what it's about, it's hard to explain. A lot of these things are kind of organic. It's possibly a reaction to this born-in-the-U.S.A. patriotism. I wanted to have this folkloric tale that could have 150 verses to it, a yarn, the bottom line of which is that there are brave, heroic, courageous people that don't really have a voice. They are just quietly heroic in their own way, in that they override these obstacles, and no matter how tough it gets, they always manage to get back up. They're the kind of people leading the kind of lives that don't get on the news. They're not the subject of a literary dissertation but are certainly just as important."
Then, just as nimbly, the album brings out a traditional Mexican folk song, "Prenda del Alma", a public domain piece arranged by Los Lobos , about which Perez explains: "We've got this huge selection of songs that we've done in a period of about eight years where all we did was folklore music. That was one of those songs that we were fond of. We went in the studio and did about three traditional folk songs, and out of that three that one carried real well."
Despite the success of their debut, Los Lobos has avoided the "sophomore jinx" on the new one. Quite remarkably, it's an extension of the first LP and also a fresh direction. "Obviously, by the record we put out, it's not like we felt the need to copy the previous success. It's obvious this record's a lot different," Perez said. "There was not intimidation or pressure from the record company. The only pressure we had was in finding the time to record it and get it out. We're a kind of band that needs to approach things rather than sit down and schedule time out. We need to grow into things. This time, we realized that as the songs were written there was a real strength to the songs that we needed to keep up front and that everything else (including live performance) would be in a support role, rather than recording a documentation of our live performances."
But as Los Lobos is paradoxically celebrated in the Anglo pop world of radio and concerts, the issue becomes: How do the Chicanos react to their success? With envy? With pride? How much does the band indeed touch their own "brave, heroic, courageous" people. Is there a nucleus here for a great Anglo-Mexican consensus? I begin by asking Perez whether the band gets any more airplay on the Mexican stations in California than they do here - which is none. "It's mostly the rock stations," he said. "The last record we got on some Spanish language radio stations in the United States. This one, I'm not sure where we stand." But his people, he said, "absolutely" share in the band's success. "It took them a while to realize what we were up to, that we had to leave the community in order to perform our kind of music. We heard this about `selling out.' But we are solidly, specifically where we come from. "At this point we run into people all the time who really see it, who feel that part of our success is also theirs. That makes us feel good. We also scare the Chicanos out of the bushes wherever we play.
"But anytime you reach moderate success, people seem to feel that you've `gone away.' They'll say, `Well, there they go.' And then they turn around and look for the next hero, whatever. That is a difficulty we've had, and to us that is very important, and we try very hard to be accessible. But we just can't talk to everybody (back home) now. We just haven't been around." Perez seems to accept minor controversies as going with the territory. But any trace of envy back home also implies that the East L.A. music scene is as stagnant vis-a-vis pop music potential as it ever was. "There's a lot of real talented musicians and bands," he said. "It's just such a long process of getting people out of this insular way of life. It maybe takes groups like us and things that have happened around us to stir people up. But at this point it's not a burgeoning music scene. I certainly hope that from what we've done they'll realize there's a chance, rather than the common outlook, which is, `Aw, I'll be a musician a while, then I'll get married and work nine-to-five and forget it all.' "I hope we can convey that hope to other people, but at this point there are bands for whom it takes so long before things really start to happen. It's unfortunate. They just have to realize that they have to kick (---) a little harder tomorrow to make it happen." So that life becomes more than mere survival.