Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
49 years (!) into its existence as the finest of bands out of east Los Angeles, no one would or could accuse Los Lobos of resting on its laurels on what is becoming an annual trek out east during the holiday season. How else to explain their schizoid take on the songs with which they are perhaps best known, a cover of Richie Valens' "La Bamba"?
Only Los Lobos weren't calling it "La Bamba" on the second of two-SRO shows. Nope. The set list referred to it as "Stoned Bomba" and rightfully so. The song borrowed Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone" with Los Lobos adopting a very slow take, shifting to a heavier sound as it rolled along with Cesar Rosas (he's the cool one with ever present shades) on lead vocals. Los Lobos could have taken the easy way out and done the traditional "La Bamba," but they were having none of it.
Los Lobos' other lead singer David Hidalgo got the two-set second night rolling with the perky "Evangeline" done rave-up style with Hidalgo also showing off his guitar skills.
Los Lobos covered a variety of styles from rock to Spanish songs to R&B and tackled a bunch of covers, including the lead-off song on the second set "Sail On Sailor" from the Beach Boys. Hidalgo simply always sounds sharp on vocals, but the band cooked as well with a long coda. The song was on "Native Sons," the group's 2021 Grammy-winning disc for Best Americana Album and an ode to the music that grew out of the Los Angeles area. They also played the title track and gave a funky, R&B stamp on "Love Special Delivery" with big sounding sax playing from Steve Berlin.
With Hidalgo and Rosas the main foci on lead vocals, Los Lobos remain a tight knit band with Conrad Lozano on bass and lots of Berlin on sax and keyboard. Hidalgo occasionally played accordion. They jammed out on the Allman Brothers Band's "Don't Keep Wonderin'" with Hidalgo again plying his guitar acumen.
To close the night out, they rocked on Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl." There's no pigeon holing Los Lobos, who clearly at this stage of their career are doing it their way.
Los Lobos could have disappointed some of its fans as the shows from the two nights were almost completely different set list each night with nearly 40 songs. (Tis the season, so the horn and percussion-heavy "¿Dónde Está Santa Claus?" was played both nights). For those attending the second show, that meant no "Will the Wolf Survive?" and "Don't Worry Baby." Then again, if you went both nights...
With Los Lobos celebrating its golden anniversary in 2023, it's great to see such a long-running band still have something new to say every night. Same time next year.