On Monday I told you about the freaking amazing concert Dawn (by the way, read this beautiful post, she rules) and I went to last weekend: Cordero and Los Lobos. The Cordero review is here but I wanted to take some time to think about Los Lobos and let the excitement of the show wear off a little bit to make sure I wasn’t thinking with my adrenaline.
I wasn’t: after thinking and listening to most of their recorded work over the last several days, it seems clear to me that Los Lobos is the best rock ‘n’ roll band in America that isn’t led by a guy named Bruce.
We saw Bruce and the E Streeters in ’99 right after Lily was born, and there is nothing like the majesty, the passion, and the spectacle of seeing Bruce whip 17,000 people or so into an extended frenzy. Size counts, and if you can turn 17,000 people into a small crowd with your songs, charisma, and musicianship, then that trumps doing the same to 800 or so people.
Los Lobos is the only American band I can think of that has grown better in every way over 25+ years: their latest CD, Good Morning Aztlan – their first since the astonishing career overview set El Cancionero Mas y Mas in 2000 – offers some of their best songwriting ever (“Good Morning Aztlan”), and a tough guitar sound that sometimes borders on grunge (“Done Gone Blue”). Also present on Aztlan is a New Orleans-style cross rhythm reminiscent of Little Feat (drummer Cougar Estrada and percussionist Victor Bisetti).
So now Los Lobos – the same five members for 20 years – not only has absorbed and made their own traditional Mexican music, Tex-Mex, SoCal Chicano rock, doo wop, psychedelia, ’60s soul, ’50s R&B, Southern blues, boogie, Southwestern Americana, and riff rock, but also an aggressive fuzzed out guitar and percussion assault worthy of any Warped Tour band.
Name a band besides Los Lobos that has gotten better at songwriting, performing, broadened their approach, AND become increasingly more contemporary and vintage AT THE SAME TIME OVER THE COURSE OF 25 YEARS. There aren’t any my friends.
Los Lobos is Creedence without the country, the Allman Brothers without the slide, Little Feat with two great singers (the lush, mellifluous comfort of guitarist/accordionist David Hidalgo; and the tougher guitarist Cesar Rosas), The Grateful Dead with a sax (Steve Berlin, the only non-Chicano), The Band with guitars instead of keyboards – a great American band.
Last Saturday they put it all together without pomp or fanfare, without a lot of jibber-jabber, just the masterful integration of musicians – closer than brothers – winding through a set of originals and inspired covers that drove a packed house of aging boomers (average age: 40ish) insane with the hybrid power, delicacy, teamwork and sustained energy that made everyone in the room feel 18 again – in a good way.
Though they don’t rival the Dead or even the jam bands like Phish for widespread cultish devotion, they do inspire the kind of following that has led to live tape swapping and a website with a record of every concert since 1983, and set lists for most.
- 01-Feb-03 Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland OH
Good Morning Aztlán
Don’t Worry Baby
The Big Ranch
Luz De Mi Vida
Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes
Everybody Loves a Train
Shoot Out The Lights
Papa Was a Rolling Stone/I Can’t Understand/Tush Jam/One Way Out
Estoy Sentado Aqui
How Much Can I Do?
Soy Mexico Americano
Mas y Mas
I Got Loaded (w/Lovelight verse)>
Outstanding – the best show we’ve seen since Bruce. Don’t miss America’s second best band if you get the chance:
- 02/07/03 9:30 Club Washington DC
02/08/03 Irving Plaza New York NY
02/20/03 Conga Room Los Angeles CA
02/21/03 House of Blues – Mandalay Bay Las Vegas NV
04/04/03 Fox Theatre Redwood City CA
04/19/03 Earth Day Festival Nashville TN
04/24/03 Gruene Hall New Braunfels TX
04/25/03 Stubbs BBQ Austin TX
04/26/03 Double Decker Festival Oxford MS
05/02/03 Jazz & Heritage Festival New Orleans LA
05/03/03 Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans LA
05/04/03 Houston International Festival Houston TX
05/05/03 Casino Hollywood San Felipe NM
06/06/03 John Ascuaga’s Nugget Sparks NV
06/07/03 John Ascuaga’s Nugget Sparks NV
06/20/03 Wolf Trap – Filene Center Vienna