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.