Los Lobos / Dec. 2, 2006 / St. Petersburg, Fla. (Jannus Landing)
The world's greatest roots-rock'n'roll band? If musical substance counts as much as style points, then honors yet again go to Los Lobos, now trotting the globe in support of the superb new disc "The TThe world's greatest roots-rock'n'roll band? If musical substance counts as much as style points, then honors yet again go to Los Lobos, now trotting the globe in support of the superb new disc "The Town and the City" and providing a far bigger sonic bang for anyone's buck than, you know, the "Satisfaction" bunch recently caught breaking box-office records at the world's enormodomes.
The durable East Los Angeles band, still vital after all these years, returned to a favorite Florida venue for a hard-rocking show on an unusually steamy December night; temperatures were in the high '70s at the downtown courtyard venue, while much of the nation's heartland was suffering a winter storm.
The onstage intensity matched the ferocious attentiveness of the crowd, as singer/guitarists David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas and their bandmates turned in a 24-song set. It began with the bluesy blast of "Pigfoot Shuffle" and was capped with a boisterous encore -- "Mas y Mas," a cover of "Good Lovin'" and, yes, "La Bamba," the signature song all but disowned by the group in earlier years.
Several of the most rewarding moments came with the quintet's performance of tunes from their latest CD, a moody, thoughtful collection that demonstrates a band fully recharged after releasing their first in-concert recording, last year's "Live at the Fillmore," and the 2004 covers-and-guests collection, "The Ride."
Working-man's ballad "The Valley," sung by Hidalgo, was a loping ballad, topped with chiming, churning guitars marked by long tonal decay. "Hold On," also co-written by Hidalgo and Louie Perez, was another tale of hard-won survival ("I'm killing myself just to keep alive"), this time hinged to a single, repeated chord that built into a hypnotic trance. Traditional Latin rhythms were the underpinning for "Chuco's Cumbia," a Rosas-penned tune sung in Spanish.
Rousing old-school rocker "Don't Worry, Baby," which moved from a whisper to a blast, was among the show's other highlights, along with the dark-toned "The Neighborhood," punched with Steve Berlin's bari sax lines; "Evangeline"; rave-up "I Got Loaded"; the psychedelic-edged "Kiko and the Lavender Moon"; and a mini-medley hooking the Bo Diddley beat of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" to a splintered-then-reassembled version of the Grateful Dead favorite "Bertha."
"Thank you, music lovers," Rosas said at the start of the show. The feeling of gratitude was mutual, as a crowd dominated by longtime Los Lobos fans hung on to every perceptive lyric groove-hungry rhythm pumped out by a band that's delivered the good stuff, free of frills or pretension, for 33 years.
-- Philip Booth
Here is Los Lobos' set list:
"Luz De Mi Vida"
"Done Gone Blue"
"Don't Worry Baby"
"Short Side of Nothing"
"I Walk Alone"
"I Got Loaded"
"Let's Say Goodnight"
"Kiko and the Lavender Moon"
"Ay Te Dejo en San Antonio"
"Soy Mexico Americano"
"The Road to Gila Bend"
"Not Fade Away"/"Bertha"
"Mas y Mas"
"La Bamba"/"Good Lovin'"/"La Bamba"