Los Lobos takes audience on wild ride
By MARTY RACINE, Staff
What happened to that quaint, eclectic Mexican-American folkloric group, Los Lobos ?
Under a "lavender" moon Tuesday at Rockefeller's, The Wolves were transformed into a herd of wild mustangs, rocking and rolling across the high desert of American roots music. They may not be the greatest American rock band -- although that point is debatable -- but again they proved to have the broadest reach in contemporary pop.
The thrust was supplied by their new album, Kiko, and by a second drummer, Victor Bisetti.
Los Lobos was first heralded for its sonorous melodies and mastery of idiomatic nuances. The band is now into more integrated rhythms that extend from Caribbean influences to dangerous crosscut rock percussion. Tuesday, Grateful Dead-like jams threatened to break out all night, finally doing so in the second show's encore of the Dead's "Bertha," which Lobos contributed to the compilation album "Deadicated."
In a sharp move, Austin guitarist Alejandro Escovedo opened for the band, accompanied by a synthesizer player and a combination bassist/cellist.
Although Escovedo is searching for the right drummer to back the trio on their upcoming tour, they dug into "Broken Bottle," "One More Time," "Five Hearts Breaking" and "Pyramid of Tears." All from Escoveda's winning new album, Gravity, these were troubled but emotionally climactic songs from deep within that galvanized into furious instrumental interplay before dropping back softly into the verse.
Los Lobos , confronted with a small stage and tight schedule, stacked an enormous amount of musicianship and intensity into their alloted space.
Hardly stopping to pay their respects, the band ripped through 19 songs in 75 minutes, only three of which were "conjuntos." One was in honor of Houston accordion tuner Sabas Espinoza, with whom Lobos have partied during their stays here.
They opened quietly enough on "Ay Te Dejo en San Antonio." Then lead singer David Hidalgo traded his accordion for electric guitar, Cesar Rosas exchanged the "bajo sexto" for another guitar, and the band was in rock 'n' roll preparedness.
They cruised through the slinky "Kiko And The Lavender Moon" and erupted into the joyous "One Time One Night In America," in which Bisetti and main drummer Louie Perez concocted a gorgeous interplay from out of the guitar solo.
The bluesy "My Baby's Gone" was dedicated to James Brown. "Short Side of Nothing" loped to a country-rock beat. Then Hidalgo got serious, screeching up the frets on "Whiskey Trail" and strapping on a double-neck electric for the gleaming "Dream In Blue and Wake Up Dolores," the best twosome of the night.
After the double-time frenzy of "Got To Let You Go," the set came down with a polka, a menacing "Wicked Rain" and the churning "Peace," which Steve Berlin anchored with baritone sax. The bluesy "Don't Worry Baby" closed the set.
The first show encore consisted of the raucous "Evangeline," the funky "Georgia Slop" and the runaway freight boogie of "That Train Don't Stop Here."
No, it seemed the train didn't stop. Los Lobos steamed into town, rocked hard and left us at the station, awed.