Written by Jim Bille

LL14After 40 plus years East LA’s Los Lobos continues to mesmerize audiences with their precise and flawless live musical performances. Last Saturday night was no exception when the Wolves offered their “disconnected show” to a packed house at the newly renovated Dosey Doe Big Barn in The Woodlands.

The term “disconnected” in this case is similar to the term “unplugged” as the band performed on amplified acoustic guitars rather than the familiar Gibson Les Paul or Fender Stratocaster electric guitars that Caesar Rojas and David Hidalgo usually have in hand. You might wonder how the music translated unplugged. Don’t even consider the question relevant since Los Lobos music speaks for itself and excels in either format.

Los Lobos opened the show with “One Time One Night” a song about how some people’s American dream and happiness has gone bad. The lyrics reflect sad stories of life in America but somehow the song has an uplifting quality to it due in part to a somewhat festive melody.

Just when you think you might have a good idea of what to expect from this band they come at you with songs like “Kiko and the Lavender Moon” from their landmark album of the same name. “Kiko’s” lilting melody combined with ominous background keyboards provided by Steve Berlin and David Hidalgo’s accordion accompaniment was one of the show’s highlights. Vocals provided by Ceasar Rojas and Hidalgo on this number had a slight mono tone quality which blended quite befittingly with this tune.

LL2Another number featured from the Kiko album was “Saint Behind the Glass”.  Louie Perez who co-writes many of the songs with Hidalgo has mentioned that the inspiration for this tune came to him from remembering the small alter his mother had on her dresser when he was growing up. The ethereal and choirboy like vocals by Perez, Hidalgo and Rojas on this number were stunning.

Living life in America is a recurring theme and is a hallmark of many Los Lobos tunes.  “Good Morning Aztlan” is a good example of this and reflects on day to day life whether it is in the barrio, the hood or just the neighborhood. With its descriptive lyrics one can almost imagine living there. The acoustic version featured this evening was no less rocking then the original electric recording. This number was another crowd favorite.

One of my personal favorite songs of the evening had to be “Emily” with its Cajun infused Neil Young sound. Hidalgo’s pure and sensitive vocals as well as incredible back up by the rest of the band made this outstanding musical piece a joy to hear.

Towards the end of the evening, Los Lobos invited close friend and Houston native Roberto Rodriguez III on stage to join in on accordion. Rodriguez is known throughout the music world as one of the best accordionists in the business. His contribution on “Volver Volver” and the party anthem “I Got Loaded” really pepped things up as the band seemed to step on the gas a little more.

LL13“Bertha”, a Grateful Dead cover, was the last song that featured Rodriguez. Rodriguez shared with me later that he didn’t know the song and that they just “threw me into the fire”. All that really didn’t matter as Rodriguez stepped up and improvised quite well on this final song of the set.

Los Lobos struck gold when they were asked to score the 1987 movie La Bamba, the story of the late Richie Valens. It’s ironic that of all the music this band has produced, a cover song would garner the most attention for them.  A “La Bamba” “Good Lovin” medley was the featured encore song for the evening which had the house up and dancing.

Other songs offered up throughout the evening included “Gates of Gold”, “Teresa” and “Chuco’s Cumbia” all masterfully performed.

With their unique and imaginative blend of song composition and musicianship that ranges from Mariachi to Barrio Blues, Cajun to Jazz and just flat out Rock and Roll, Los Lobos knows no boundaries when it comes to making some of the best music on the planet.