Concert Review from Glide Magazine:
Review: Los Lobos @ The Aladdin Theatre
When you hear the word "acoustic" associated with a concert, it conjures up visions of acoustic guitars and bar stools on stage. The drummer becomes a percussionist; everyone sits on the stools and plays their music without all the decibels and hot dogging. It's more about the music than the show. MTV made sure we were all familiar with the concept with their "Unplugged" series. Everyone from Sting to Nirvana to 10,000 Maniacs has played that venue. When your favorite band adds and acoustic set to their show, the tunes are approached differently by the musicians. Sometimes the results are wonderful, ala Springsteen's Born To Run on the Chimes Of Freedom EP. Other times, not so much, like Motley Crue trying to pull off Girls, Girls, Girls with Tommy Lee on congas. Just can't get behind that one. Truth in advertising laws aside, inserting the word Semi- between the first two words appearing on the ticket would be closer to what we were treated to at the Aladdin Theater on Friday night.
Los Lobos put a slightly different spin on the acoustic label tonight. They started on time, all five members fanning out at the front of the stage with, true to their word, acoustic instruments. Like a mariachi on steroids, they strummed and harmonized their way through a first set that consisted of mostly Spanish vocals and joyous interplay. When Louie Perez stepped to the mike to sing Saint Behind The Glass four songs in, they were already sweating. From the front row, they looked like they were having the time of their lives. Even Cesar Rosas, the epitome of cool behind his ever present dark shades, was grinning ear to ear.
After Saint, they strayed a bit from the set list as David Hidalgo called it a special night and played a song for lovers, Sabor a Mi. Just slightly softer in pace than the rest of the first set, this song emphasized the harmonies that singing together thirty five years can produce. Sounding like the lost note you'll never master alone, five voices sang as one and oozed passion all over the crowd.
Conrad Lozano, normally on bass but tonight on Guitarron, the giant bodied acoustic bass favored in mariachis bands, smiled so much throughout the first set, he had to work the jaw a little before picking up lead vocals on the standard, Guantanamera (Guajira), which they covered on their first album, Los Lobos del Este Los Angeles, so long ago. Steve Berlin multi-tasked on this song, trading keyboards for flute towards the end as the band segued seamlessly into the set's only English language tune, Teresa. Kudos must go to the unofficial sixth member of the band, touring drummer Cougar Estrada. His crisp playing throughout the latter part of the first set really rounded out each song he played along on.
After a short intermission it was on to set two. Kicking it up a notch, but still acoustic, they rattled through La Pistola y El Corazon with mucho gusto. It was shortly after this song that Hidalgo tossed the set list out the window. Out came the electric instruments and they took the party to the next level. Either by playing the opening notes of a song or shouting its title across the stage, he seemed to play whatever felt right after whatever song they happened to be playing at the time.
What a showcase for their talent. They totally ripped the place apart with their version of Emily, and then turned it around with the novelty Disney song from The Jungle Book, I Wanna Be Like You (The Monkey Song). They took this tune really seriously and rocked it along for an extended jam that pleased the crowd to no end. My own face was starting to hurt from smiling too much, it was that much fun.
From there it only got better. Hidalgo jumped effortlessly between violin, guitar and accordion and led the band through a touching version of The Giving Tree. Then they romped through The Valley, from The Town and The City, prefacing it with a brief tale of the songs origins. A paean to the immigrants that settled Western North America, again they tore it up with a great jam, spotlighting Estrada's drumming toward the end. For a time, however, Hidalgo had to get behind the kit and pound the skins for a while also. I told you he was multi-tasking.
The highlight of the second set was the finale. Rosas and Hidalgo guitar dueled a bit at the beginning of what would be a twenty minute jam that started with Not Fade Away, rambled through Bertha and Little Wing, before finally settling down with the extended coda of Bertha again. Magic music moment there. Magic.
They came out for an encore with no apparent agenda. At this point I had to interject by shouting out "Kiko" at the top of my lungs as the band tuned a bit and looked to each other for a song to start the encore with. Cesar Rosas pointed at me in the front row and told the band "This guy wants to hear Kiko", and that was that. Los Lobos played my request as their first encore. Bitchin!
Their final song was another extended jam that began and ended with Mas y Mas, but touched on several tunes along the way. ZZ Top's Heard It On the X even made a brief appearance at some point before they finally shut the music down for the night.
Los Lobos never forget the fans that put them where they are today. Several times from the stage they let the crowd know that they would be signing autographs in the lobby after the show. My own propensity for not listening to directions had me at the very end of the line, which snaked the length of the lobby, up the stairs and halfway across the balcony level. It took almost an hour, but they shook hands and signed whatever was put in front of them, acknowledging each fan, making eye contact and answered any question proffered. For example, Cesar Rosas doesn't mind being the only southpaw in the band, since it is a trait he shares with our new president. Conrad Lozano misses his grandchildren while on the road. David Hidalgo says his job is having fun and he wouldn't have it any other way. Louie Perez is happy to quietly let the other guys make all the noise. You get the picture.
I asked them, all at once, if they felt bad about the billing tonight, seeing as it really didn't stay acoustic all night. Their reply, almost word for word, was that "acoustic" was merely a suggestion and the music and the crowd dictate how this kind of show winds up. It took two and a half hours, but this show wound up being a wonderful night of mariachi madness.
Roca Encendido a traves de la niebla
(Rock on through the fog)
- A.J. Crandall