Los Lobos are a joy to behold, especially when you see them live. There is absolutely no artifice with this great band from east LA, which is why a performance such as the acoustic set in New Hampshire, might well rank among the happiest concert experiences you are likely to have.
The abbreviated first set of approximately thirty-five minutes consisted of authentic Mexican-flavored material much of it, like the titlesong culled from the group's 1988 roots album La Pistola Mi Corazon. Between the sweeping acoustic rhythmic guitars, full-throated vocals and knowing smiles from the band members, it was hard not to be enchanted. And the band was similarly affected: it wasn't long into the show before everyone in Los Lobos had smiled at one another with the pleasure of musicians in synch before a receptive audience.
Yet this comparatively subdued introduction was no preparation for the second extended set including two encores before a roaring response from an audience that, before the night was done, had filled the aisle and stage front with gyrations of joy (David Hidalgo even pulled some spectators on stage!). "Saint Behind the Glass and "Kiko, both well-acknowledged Lobos originals, might well have been traditional tunes, given their melodious nature and this night at the Opera House, an exquisitely intimate venue, signaled a shift of gears where the band let it rock before their second set was through.
Cougar Estrada had become almost indiscernibly prominent on percussion during the course of the evening, playing the kit with brushes and working congas with increasing intensity behind Louie Perez and Hidalgo on acoustic guitars (and the latter also handling violin and accordion). As Conrad Lozano began to play deep electric bass lines and Cesar Rosas, the definition of cool in his dark glasses and wry repartee to the audience (and no slouch as a lead guitarist either), began using an electric twelve-string, the energy level and the temperature rose distinctly so that, when Steve Berlin forsook his earthy sax playing for organ, Los Lobos took flight.
They may have crossed the line from ingratiating to unctuous when, seqeuing from "I Got Loaded (interpolating "Turn on Your Love Light ) to "Not Fade Away, and then into "Bertha : what might've been a gesture of respect to the Grateful dead became borderline pandering. And then there was "La Bamba, but you can hardly argue the merits of terrific rock and roll songs when rendered with the gusto Lobos radiated.
Little wonder the crowd would hardly let them off the stage, even after "Guatanamera, so that "Good Lovin' became the most appropriate set loser possible. The bond between the band and its audience couldn't been much more intimate and given the fact there were no security confrontations as the dancing spread from one aisle to the other, it's hard to know who had a better time September 29th: the musicians or the music lovers.
John E. Schwarzell