Their opening “How Much Can I Do” featuring David Hidalgo’s proficient accordion and vocals set an upbeat, ethnic tempo. This much was expected. As WFUV’s John Platt said in his introduction, listeners should expect to hear from the veteran band’s “adventurous spirit.”
Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas, the latter sporting his trademark sunglasses, are the voices most associated with the best-known Los Lobos songs. This evening the two handled most of the vocals, though there was plenty of backup vocal work for bassist Conrad Lozano and sax/keyboardist Steve Berlin. Enrique Gonzales was the night's enthusiastic percussionist.
“Let’s Say Goodnight” followed with fast unison runs by Hidalgo’s accordion and Rosas’ guitar. The two seemed to enjoy the 40-yr old process of gliding slyly into tempo, and the duets were the perfect opening for a still-flexible Hidalgo voice delivering typical Los Lobos homespun insight:
You're always right, and I have never been wrong
The way we are it's getting harder to hang on
But who's to blame, when two things are
Never the same, it's not people that change
It's maybe living from day to day
Then it was on to a traditional two-step -- “Los Ojos de Pancha,” or perhaps it was the very similar “Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio?” Next Hidalgo removed his accordion for guitar (an amplified Epiphone nylon string guitar, perfect for the band’s current “Disconnected” tour).
The concert was to switch gears ever so slightly. So far, the audience was pleased but restless. Roses tuned his acoustic guitar.
“It was in tune when I bought it,” he quipped, then kicked into “Chuco’s Cumbia.”
An adrenalin cloud drifted into the crowd, and toes started tapping to the cumbia rhythm. The following clip was shot recently at the City Winery.
The Landmark stage was heating up -- perfect for the aptly named “Burn it Down.” “Burn it Down” was well played, though fans of the studio version know there’s a hyperactive EQ at work on the bass part.
Next it was a return to a traditional Mexican folk tune. (Rosas may have heard tunes like this growing up in Hermosillo around the same time this reviewer heard them a bit north in Tucson), “Estoy Sentado Aquí,” he crooned.
Some moments that evening produced echoes of past performers at Landmark. When Los Lobos sang “Matter of Time,” it had the same optimistic, relaxed feeling reminiscent of Landmark favorite Raul Malo. That was followed by “Rosalie,” which the group has performed with Alejandro Escovedo, and who has also appeared at the Landmark.
Next up was “My Baby’s Gone,” a straight-ahead I-IV-V blues tune that had a few adventurous dancers in the audience heading for the side aisles. In response, the band followed up with the unapologetic “I Got Loaded” (“. . .on a bottle of gin, but I feel allright . . .”). The tune morphed into a saloon-style singalong, and another couple dozen dancers left their seats.
The band’s encore featured “La Pistola y El Corazon,” which hinted at their inspired Desperado theme ably performed with Antonio Banderas. The dancers were still more restless.
Take this! the band seemed to say, and delivered the rock and roll tune “Don’t Worry Baby,” which was definitely a Norte Americano-influenced concoction. (“Adventurous,” remember?)
The closing song was what the audience had hungered for. The first few notes of “La Bamba” had barely made it to the last row when the whoops and hollers began. The band’s superhit makeover of Ritchie Valens’ song sandwiched a tasty filling of the influential Limmie Snell rock and roll classic, “Good Lovin’” – after which the band returned to its East L.A. launching pad.
Some reviewers have called their body of work “wildly eclectic” (Google Play | Music), but this evening of music had a cohesive dance hall ethos.
Given their 40-year body of work, there would be songs omitted from this performance, notably “Cancion del Mariachi,” “That Train Don’t Stop Here,” “Cumbia Raza,” “Shakin’, Shakin,’” “Luz de mi Vida,” “Maricela,” “Mas y Mas,” and the stunningly lyrical Glimcher/Kraft collaboration, “Bella Maria De Mi Alma.” “Bella Maria” was popularized by Antonio Banderas on the silver screen but executed even better by Los Lobos. Their Los Super Seven “Campesino” was also missed.
But “La Bamba” was to close out the performance, showing North Shore Hispanics that gringo dance hall Spanish ain't half bad.
This reviewer anticipated the show through the lens of last year’s memorable meal at Boyle Heights' La Serenata di Garibaldi in flavorful East L.A. Which may explain the disconnected response to the Disconnected tour: Mmm: Los Angeles, Los Lobos, Los Magníficos.
The next Landmark show is a sold-out Darlene Love return engagement. John Batiste and Stay Human come to town on January 9, 2014.