Friday 19 September 2008

Los Lobos - A Joyful Sloppy Sound

It was shaping up to be a great show - Los Lobos had just tore it up with "Don't Worry Baby" and managed to get some of the Toronto crowd at Massey Hall dancing (which is no small feat). Every tune had been great and surpassed the one previous, the band seemed to be in a loose mood and my friend and I had some great seats about 10 rows back in the middle. I figured we may have reached the high point, but that was OK because it had already been worth it.

Then they started into Neil Young's "Down By The River".

Three stupendous guitar solos and 10-15 minutes later (I kinda lost track of time during the song), David Hidalgo came back to the mic to sing those final verses as the band riffed through to the end. I could've easily listened to another 10-15 minutes. The whole thing felt like a sound check with Hidalgo offering up solos to the other band members (he even gave a mini-drum solo to the young drummer filling in for Louie Perez - who was on guitar at the time). Because of this on the fly jam session feeling, it came across a bit sloppy in spots, but never anything but pure musicianship from a band just feeling their way through the performance.

You could tell the set list was being changed on the fly - there was never a slow section during the entire show and things went a bit long so they only had time for a single encore. The crowd were all standing at this point and had been since about three songs before the end when Hidalgo pulled some goofy dancing guy up on the stage to handle percussion - the guy didn't quite have the chops, but he had some great style, confidence (the liquid kind I think) and gave it his all. My friend and I went down front and managed to get right at the edge of the stage in front of Cesar Rosas. The band pulled a good 10-15 people from the crowd up on stage (including all the women who had been dancing up front earlier) and grooved through their final tune.

It always amazes me how easy some musicians make playing an instrument look. It's almost like how the rest of us sign our name. What Los Lobos do is make playing as a band look effortless. Not that there aren't some sloppy moments, but they never let it feel wrong.

Damn that was a good show.


Anonymous said...

Just to let you know: that drummer 'filling in' has been with the band for five years. His name is Cougar Estrada. Louis Perez doesn't spend much time behind the kit anymore, except for the some of the upbeat 'traditional' tunes.

Bob Turnbull said...

Thanks Anon...Yes, I was aware of that, but just phrased it badly. And you're right, Perez played on a couple of tunes that were indeed much more Traditional. For one of them Hidalgo motioned that they should play it fast and the whole band had these big grins on their faces while they played it (particularly bass player Conrad Lozano). Even the roadie had a big smile as he was walking around replacing guitars and filling wine glasses. Perez finished the song with a top speed flourish...

Estrada, by the way, was terrific. One of those drummers that just has an instinctive feel for rhythm. I still think of Perez as the drummer though. I'm going to pick up "Town And The City" as soon as possible though.

Arbogast said...

I saw Los Lobos a few times back in Nuevo York but not in nearly 20 years, since they were promoting Kiko. They put on a good show.

Bob Turnbull said...

Hi Arbogast...That must've been great to see them at that point.

This being my first show, I was surprised at how much Hidalgo really came across as the leader - motioning for solos, controlling tempo and even changing the set list on the fly.

I wanna see them again...