Fans of Los Lobos and rock in general should applaud the release of Live at the Fillmore. But don't turn to the compact disc package thinking it's a companion piece to the DVD of the same name released last fall: it does not contain all of what was on the DVD and then someonly a portion of it, in fact. On this compact disc you'll find Lobos eschewing the heavier rock and riff songs for more subtly rhythmic, melodic tunes that highlight their Spanish and Mexican heritage.
The pair of tracks not on the video counterpart are notable for establishing this theme. While "The Neighborhood is not juxtaposed with the group's poignant rendition of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On, the connection is all too clear: Lobos are soulfully imploring communities of all kinds (families, cites, nations) to take stock in their actions.
This roots concept on Live at the Fillmore is furthered by the inclusion of a three-track sampler taken from Acoustic en Vivo, a live collection of unplugged cuts taken from the group's spring 2004 tour (available only at Lobos concerts and from their website): there's precious little info about this material in the liner notes of this package or even on the disc itself, but not surprisingly, it displays all the virtues evident on the electric CD: a distinct musicality, a sure grasp of rhythm, and a resonant unity as a musical group that has few equals, and perhaps no superiors, in contemporary rock.
You may not be able to resist the temptation to make a custom mixing of Lobos Live by inserting "Saint Behind the Glass and the two other sampler songs in the middle of the Fillmore tracks as a sort of unplugged interlude (but you'll also most likely want to check out the full-length acoustic presentation). As deeply-schooled as they are in the music of their heritage, as evinced by the lilting rendition of "Guatanamera, Los Lobos also know the roots of rock in the blues; hence the group roars its way through "I Walk Alone, later on soaring through "Luz en Mi Vida ; here the guttural squawk of Steve Berlin's sax gives way to the ethereal strains of flute, all of which bounces on top of snap, crackle, and pop rhythm supplied by percussionists Cougar Estrada and Victor Bisetti.
As Blair Jackson notes so astutely in his informative liner notes, selections for this CD span the breadth of the band's career, and not only is there no dropoff in the quality of the songwriting, it has arguably improved in its intelligence, not to mention its eclectic authenticity. Add to that virtue the group's apparently effortless ability to slip into one groove after another; if Live at the Fillmore doesn't happen to emphasize the rocking, it doesn't mean you shouldn't have it, it only indicates how versatile Los Lobos are.
Track Listing: Good Morning Aztlan; I Walk Alone; Maria Christina; Charmed; Luz de Mi Vida; Rita; The Neighborhood; Maricela; Tears of God; Viking; How Much Can I Do?; Kiko and the Lavender Moon; Cumbia Raza; What's Going On; Saint Behind the Glass; Maricela; Guantanamera
Personnel: David Hidalgo: (guitar, violin, accordion, percussion and vocals);
Cesar Rosas: (guitar and vocals); Louie Perez: (guitar, drums and vocals); Conrad Lozano:
(bass and vocals); Steve Berlin: (saxophone and keyboards); Cougar Estrada: (drums and
percussion); Victor Bisetti: (drums and percussion); Guest: Victor Hidalgo: (guitar on
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