Los Lobos is still roaring as they enter their 5th decade. The little ol’ band from East LA has deftly melded their Latin roots and love of rock, blues and folk across a solid body of releases. At the Belly Up, the southernmost stop on their 40th Anniversary Tour, the band shifted smoothly between cumbia and rock chestnuts (“Crossroads”) and back. They also served up a range of flavors in their musical stew, anchored by solid musicianship.
The guitar trio on the front line was confident throughout. On the left, Caesar Rosas’s goatee and Ray-Bans remained firmly ensconced; some things don’t change over 40 years. On the right, David Hidalgo took the majority of the vocals and handled the widest variety of instruments. Between them Louis Pérez (the band’s main lyricist) added guitar figures while Conrad Lozano laid down the solid bass lines. Longtime member Steve Berlin has been blending his seemingly incongruous Philly Yiddish roots with Chicano flavors for years. Onstage he modulated between sax and synths.
“Kiko and the Lavender Moon” was the evening’s highlight, and perfect on a night with a full moon. Hidalgo’s button accordion laced the song’s sinuous melody.
Los Lobos delivered a tasty three song encore with their cover of the Dead’s Bertha, Richie Valens’ La Bamba and their own Don’t Worry Baby. Rosas likely wrote the latter song as both an homage and a grittier take on the Beach Boys’ song of the same name. Indeed, both bands stand as pretty good representatives of the range of music birthed in Los Angeles.
Los Lobos have come a long way from backyard parties and wedding receptions in East LA, but yes the wolf survives.