Los Lobos, Jazz Cafe, London
Tuesday 11 August 2009
Think of a gang from LA and some pretty negative images come to mind, but the smiles on the faces of the punters throughout this gig spoke of a welcome to one particular gang of Latinos that was reciprocated in an exuberant performance that combined accomplished musicianship with undiminished enthusiasm. This quintet has been playing together for more than 30 years, and it showed in the way the original members – Louie Perez, Conrad Lozano, Cesar Rosas, David Hidalgo and Steve Berlin, supplemented by the muscular and inventive drumming of Cougar Estrada – played a set that they seemed to be making up as it went along.
This was confirmed at the end when the guy next to me got hold of one of the band's set lists and it revealed that they had followed the script for only the first four songs; thereafter, gleefully taking (and playing) requests, egging each other on, and running impressively through a wide range of musical styles.
Very few bands can pull this off, and they are the best of them, their craft honed on the US bar-band circuit where you take your cue from the audience and learn to play anything. So we got rock'n'roll, blues, bits of soul and jazz, West Coast rock, covers of "My Generation" and "Mr Fantasy" and of course their trademark Tex-Mex and cumbia, all delivered with a joy that bounced backwards and forwards between band and audience all night.
Even some technical hitches with Hidalgo's amp early in the set didn't hamper their momentum and seemed in fact to spark the departure from the set list as he switched guitars and let Cesar Rosas call the next few songs. With his driving rhythm playing, and Conrad Lozano's melodic bass laying down a perfect foundation, the grinning diminutive Rosas makes a great musical and visual foil to Hidalgo, whose sweet voice and fluid lead guitar belie his shambling, bearlike appearance. When he strapped on the accordion for a few Mexican numbers the two Spanish girls in front of me who hadn't stopped moving all night danced even harder.
Basically, good as their albums are, this is a band you have to see live to appreciate what they're really about. It's been a long time since they played Dingwalls with Elvis Costello and Joe Strummer in the audience, as recalled by David Hidalgo, but I doubt they've played many better gigs than we less celebrated fans were privileged to witness in 2009.
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
- 2 McKamey Manor: This 'extreme' haunted house is the stuff of nightmares
- 3 Russell Brand says he will 'probably' give up acting to focus on his revolution
- 4 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 5 David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Revolutionary lost Caravaggio painting 'Mary Magdalen in Ecstasy' identified
Pottermore: JK Rowling writes new Harry Potter story featuring 'greying' 33-year-old wizard
JK Rowling to publish new Harry Potter story online for Halloween
Fury, film review: Brad Pitt stars in visceral and brutally ugly drama that reminds us war is hell
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Tony Blair 'says Ed Miliband will lose 2015 general election'
Putin: The US is to blame for almost all the world's major conflicts