Live: Los Lobos’ Post Pandemic Insular Show at The Egg, 09/26/2021

Los Lobos is a great American band that played Sunday night’s concert at The Egg like they had a plane to catch. My dear friend George Scism is my regular companion at shows. I joke with him that his tastes are so eclectic that even he loved the French klezmer band we once saw at The Egg. I did, too, but that’s not what this review is about.  

So, George asks me over dinner what my expectations were for the show. His were through the roof. Mine not so much. He expected to hear this rock band from East L.A. mix it up playing American rock with a Hispanic accent. I wasn’t so sure.  

Their new album Native Sons is being marketed as “a kaleidoscopic selection of songs from their homeland” and “a crucial snapshot of L.A.’s musical heritage.” The only original on the album is the title song, an ode to Los Angeles. The covers include Richie Valens’ “La Bamba” and the Beach Boys’ “Sail On Sailor, all of which they played.  

Los Lobos CityWinery 1

“La Bamba” was in the encore and easily the most energized song of the night, a closely duplicated homage to the original by the Latino rocker who was tragically killed in the 1959 plane crash that also took out Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. It was one of several songs Los Lobos recorded for the 1987 film of the same title and immediately caught on with the audience that sang along with its Spanish lyrics. 

“Sail On Sailor” is a Beach Boy hit that vocalist David Hidalgo read off a computer that was brought out just for that song.  They also covered The Blasters’ “Flat Top Joint.” Keyboardist Steve Berlin, “the new guy in the band” who joined in the mid – ’80s played with The Blasters before joining Los Lobos. 

Los Lobos, the Spanish word for The Wolves, performed their 1984 breakout hit “How Will the Wolf Survive?” early in the set. It’s the song that cemented their reputation as a band with “an enormous diversity of genres—rock-and-roll and R&B, surf music and soul, mariachi and música norteña, punk rock and country—and building a boldly unpredictable sound all their own.” Their set at The Egg did not live up to that promise. Instead, we heard a set that lasted almost exactly an hour and a half, was very loud, technically proficient, but did not come across as a group of childhood friends – which they are – having a great time being back out on tour. 

In an advance interview promoting the show, Louie Perez described his more than half a century relationship with the other guys in the band as “like jumping out of a plane with a parachute. Anything that goes on, they’re my brothers. It’s like a wrestling match in the grass, and it’s all over, and you’re back to being brothers again. If somebody asks about something they want or need, everybody generally goes along with it. It only happens with family.” 

While the band got a standing ovation from half the people in the audience at the end, there was something missing in the connection one comes to expect in a live performance. Maybe it’s the result of the pandemic. Louie described in our interview the change the pandemic has brought about in him. “(Before the pandemic) you meet somebody, and if you’re open enough, this person has their own vibe, and you feel like you’ve known them forever. Now, there’s a criterion, that checklist you have. It’s unfortunate.” 

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