Dos Lobos At Levitt Pavilion, Saturday July 15th 2017
Los Lobos had decided to go by Dos Lobos for their summer concert at the Levitt Pavilion, since Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo were the only two members of the famous East LA band performing on Saturday night, back up by two other musicians on bass and drums. As they first went very bluesy in their setlist, Cesar Rosas told us: ‘We are the Dos Lobos blues band… this is all blues, right?’ They had just played the old-school blues standards ‘Sweet Home Chicago’, then a next one, which didn’t seem to correspond to what was written on the setlist, and I thought we were in for an entire blues night… not that I would have complained because Rosas and Hidalgo are two music masters and watching them play while standing front row at a few feet from them is a true delight, the number of detours and layers they bring to the music with only two guitars is impressive. Los Lobos may be the best band we have in LA, they definitively wrote the perfect soundtrack for the city, and watching 2 of them having fun with blues classics was as impressive as it can get.
Of course an all-blues night was not going to happen and after a fun version of ‘Farmer John’, a few mad guitar solos accompanied by vocal harmonies and a retro sound sure to please the somewhat middle-age crowd the show had gathered, they switched to a more familiar song, at least one of their own, with ‘Chuco’s Cumbia’, echoing East LA joyful sound and making people dance and smile. Los Lobos have an impressive catalogue, the band has released more than 20 albums, several compilations, composed numerous soundtracks and for this first part of the concert, Rosas and Hidalgo had decided to barely touch their own work, they obviously love covering songs and as I was stretching my neck to get a glimpse at the setlist, I realized they were taking a lot of freedom with it. If ‘Hey Joe’ was noted on the setlist, they did another Hendrix’s song ‘Little Wing’, with phenomenal guitars and a solo by David Hidalgo, which impressively reached some Pink Floyd-esque levels.
They obviously had to play more of their own songs, and they did reach this point with ‘The Neighborhood’, encouraging a crowd singalong, followed by their traditional Mexican material, when Hidalgo moved to accordion for a few Spanish songs sung by Rosas, ‘This goes out to Cesar Chavez’, said Rosas before one famous Mexican polka ‘Mexico Americano’. There were a few others, going from exuberant Mexican parties to a poignant serenade like ‘Volver Volver’, immediately followed by a heavy bluesy intro for the hard rocking and invigorating ‘Don’t Worry Baby’. Dos/Los Lobos can elegantly cross over cultures and musical genres without even breaking a sweat (actually it was a warm night and they did break a sweat), but they do it so effortlessly, with so much natural and musical texture that you end up wondering why these brilliant musicians are not more… famous?
Of course, it looked a bit too easy that they would close the concert with a ‘La Bamba/Good Lovin’’ Medley… this probably sounded too predictable compared to the rest of the previous material, but can either Los or Dos Lobos get away from ‘La Bamba’? Is there a concert when the crowd is not requesting the famous song? I have a hard time to believe it is possible, especially when they are playing in Latino-populated MacArthur neighborhood. But as much as the Ritchie Valens biopic did for Los Lobos’ career or vice versa, it would be obviously simplistic to reduce Los Lobos to the band who revived the famous late-50s classic. Live, they truly give the impression they can play anything while they are not specially interested by advertising their last work (‘Gates of Gold’ in 2015) or their forty-year-old career since the release of their debut, ‘Si Se Puede!’. Dos Lobos were just here to have fun with us in a complete masterful simplicity.