Los Lobos are often referred to as one of music’s best kept secrets. Although garnering significant critical acclaim, decent album sales, and a devoted fan base who turn out in droves for every tour, the band never really reached the superstar status of some of the artists, like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Melissa Etheridge, who have opened for them in the past. This might be due to the fact that the band’s music is so damn eclectic and hard to categorize. It draws equally from rock, Tex-Mex, country, R&B, blues, and traditional Mexican folk influences. As I watched this performance I was reminded of Santana, Cream, ZZ-Top, and The Allman Brothers all within the span of about four songs.
This DVD commemorates Los Lobos’ thirty year anniversary as a band, and twenty years since the release of their first full length album How Will The Wolf Survive. I confess that I am not much of a Los Lobos expert. I’ve never seen them live, and the only album of theirs that I own is Kiko. As true Los Lobos fans know, Kiko is considered by many to be the band’s finest hour, but it was certainly a drastic change in personality from the band’s previous albums. That is one of the best things about this band, you just never know what you are going to get with each album and performance, as this DVD aptly demonstrates.
Live At the Fillmore was recorded on July 29th and 30th, 2004 at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. Twenty-one song performances are included which span the band’s entire career, but longtime fans might be a little disappointed that half of these songs were taken from their two most recent albums, 2002’s Good Morning Aztlán, and last year’s The Ride, with only one song coming from their great debut album. Lucky for us, those two albums contain some of Los Lobos‘ strongest material in over a decade.
Not being quite sure what to expect when I first popped this disc in, the first couple of songs immediately made me sit up and take notice. Aztlán‘s "The Big Ranch" is a straightforward rocker that had me breaking out my trusty air guitar right away, but by the end of the ripping "I Walk Alone", from 1990’s The Neighborhood, I though I was listening to a Cream reunion concert. David Hidalgo coaxes a monster tone out of his guitar when the need arises, and then humbly holds down the rhythm when the spotlight turns to his bandmates. He made a big fan out of me this night.
They briefly got back to their roots on the third song, "Maria Christina", a Mexican-folk number, sung in Spanish by Cesar Rosas, and featuring the accordion playing of David Hidalgo. "Done Gone Blue" a rollicking Tex-Mex blues song, was followed by the first song from the new The Ride album, the gritty "Charmed", which would have fit quite comfortably on any 70’s-era ZZ-Top album.
Performance highlights included a guest appearance by David Hidalgo’s son, Vincent, who handles the lead guitar chores on the rockin’ "Viking". He had the most ultra-distorted fuzz tone I have ever heard on a guitar, which gives the song its unique charm. Next up was the Kiko boogie-rock opus, "That Train Don’t Stop Here", which reminded me of jammin’ to some Pat Travers or Gov’t Mule. They closed the show with a ferocious encore of "Mas y Mas" that featured the incredible Robert Randolph on pedal steel guitar. If you haven’t witnessed this young bluesman’s pedal steel work yet, DO IT! I had always heard about him, but never actually saw him jam until I got the Crossroads Guitar Festival DVD. His performance alongside the brilliant guitar trio of Hidalgo, Rosas, and Perez was nothing short of breathtaking. One of the guitar-highlights of the year for me.
The superb production quality of this DVD lived up to the band’s terrific performance. Both the PCM stereo and Dolby Digital tracks sounded crisp, provided excellent instrument separation, and delivered plenty of thumping bass to my subwoofer. The widescreen video looked clear and sharp, and had no significant flaws. The camera work was outstanding overall. The only extra feature included was a twelve-minute behind the scenes documentary referred to as "Imported From E.L.A.", which included interviews with some of the band members and crew, as well as backstage footage from before and after the show.
This DVD is a no-brainer for any fan of authentic guitar-driven rock and roll. Los Lobos certainly surprised me with the diversity of their music, and the power of their live performance. After the excellent Los Lonely Boys DVD came out last year (hey, are they related?), many people commented that people should check out the real deal, Los Lobos, instead. After this performance, I can see what they mean – but I still love them Lonely Boys.
The Big Ranch
I Walk Alone
Done Gone Blue
Luz De Mi Vida
Chains of Love
Tears of God
That Train Don’t Stop Here
Kiko and the Lavender Moon
How Much Can I Do
I Got Loaded
Good Morning Aztlan
Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes
Mas y Mas
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