Monday, January 21, 2013
Concert review: Los Lobos plays brilliant dance music for fans who don’t dance
Veteran L.A. band blends rock, soul, and ranchera for a sit-down crowd at the Kessler Theater.
OAK CLIFF For a band with such super-danceable music as Lob Lobos, lasting for 40 years has one serious drawback: They now find themselves at theaters where dancing is discouraged, performing for older fans who are perfectly content to sit.
Last time through town, the rockers from East L.A. tried in vain to loosen up the elegant Winspear Opera House. On Saturday, the sextet played two sold-out shows for sit-down crowds at the Kessler Theater, and while the vibe wasn’t nearly as stuffy as at the Winspear, Los Lobos made it clear they expected fans to get off their rumps.
“Is there any dancing allowed here tonight?” singer-guitarist Cesar Rosas asked during the first show after no one danced to the band’s 1988 Mexican masterpiece “La Pistola y el Corazon.”
Apparently not. The audience stayed glued to its chairs until the end of the show, when the band brightened the house lights and demanded everyone stand for “Guantanamera.”
The show wasn’t fated to be of those magical Los Lobos parties so common in the ‘80s and ‘90s post-“La Bamba.” But that’s not to say there weren’t magic moments, like the soulful double-whammy of “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Set Me Free (Rosa Lee),” the greatest song Smokey & the Miracles never recorded. Or the haunted artiness of “Saint Behind the Glass” and “Kiko and the Lavender Moon” from Kiko, the 1992 CD that elevated the band to new heights of brilliance.
Last fall, the band celebrated Kiko’s 20th anniversary by playing that album from start to finish. Now the group’s launched an acoustic tour, which meant slightly fewer guitar solos from David Hidalgo and Rosas -– he of the perpetual sunglasses -- but still plenty of rock.
Hidalgo improvised madly on acoustic guitar and turned “One Time One Night” into a Grateful Dead-ly jam to rival Los Lobos’ cover of “Bertha.” Saxophonist Steve Berlin squeezed every last bit of funk and jazz out of “Oh Yeah.” And by the time the group swung through the ranchera classic “Volver, Volver,” they finally had fans riled up: There was still nobody dancing, but at least a few folks were hooting, hollering and stomping their feet.
Thor Christensen is a Dallas freelance writer.