It’s hard to believe, at least for me, but Los Lobos have been together for 40 years. It was 1973 when Louie Perez and David Hidalgo met at Garfield High School in East LA and when they enlisted fellow students Cesar Rosas and Conrad Lozano, Los Lobos del Este (de Los Angeles) was born. Steve Berlin is the newest member of the group. Next year it will be 30 years since he joined.
All five were on hand, along with drummer “Bugs Gonzales,” for the band’s show at the Narrows Center last week. It was the second time in the last year or so that I’ve seen the band in the excellent Fall River, MA venue. While last year’s show leaned more toward the band’s acoustic, Spanish-language side, this year it was all-out electric and rocked from start to finish.
David Hidalgo is responsible for many of the lead vocals and much of the lead guitar work these days and the first clue as to how things were going to go came with his incendiary solo on “Burn It Down,” the evening’s second song. Cesar Rosas jumped in soon after with a splendid take on “Set Me Free (Rosa Lee).”
Cover versions played a big part in the festivities as the band took to the stage without a set list, determined to just let it rip. Among the highlights of the first set were takes on Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” and a delightful, if brief, cover of “Papa Was A Rolling Stone.”
The band’s second set began with a beautiful version of “Wicked Rain” that featured Rosas on the lead vocal. Other highlights included an equally beautiful version of “Tears of God,” which initially appeared on the By the Light of the Moon album, and “This Train Don’t Stop Here,” from Kiko.
A cover of “Farmer John,” originally recorded by the Premiers and covered by everybody, seemed like something of a tribute to Frank Zappa, and a medley of “Not Fade Away” and “Bertha” was a very definite tribute to the Grateful Dead.
Another Kiko song, “Whiskey Trail,” was included in the encore. The band was then joined by New England soul legend Barrence Whitfield for raucous versions of Jimi Hendrix’ “Stone Free,” and Doug Sahm’s “She’s About A Mover.”
Forty years with the original membership intact. Not many bands can say that, and even if they can they’re probably not making music that continues to be as relevant, and as rocking, as the music of Los Lobos. On a night when they eschewed playing any of their hits, or even their more popular album cuts, they still managed to delight the packed house at the Narrows, proving once again that Los Lobos are hardly just another band from East LA.