Back in 1984, Los Lobos posed the musical question, “How Will the Wolf Survive?” Based on the rousing reception they got from the crowd packing the Lobero Theatre last Thursday night, the answer was “pretty damn well.”
Probably America’s all-time best mutt-music band, Los Lobos are now approaching their 40th year, omnivorously chewing up any and all musical landscapes and creating an original and richly crafted sound in the process. The band began the night, as they often do, with a few numbers from their La Pistola y El Corazon album, showcasing their origins in traditional Mexican, norteño, and Tex-Mex music. Frontman David Hidalgo demonstrated he could rip with authority on the requinto jarocho, the sort of instrument one can imagine being born if a ukulele were to have sex with a guitar. The band then plugged in and dipped into a convincingly sultry cumbia groove, and subsequently shifted to the songbook from Kiko, their most critically acclaimed and sonically experimental album.
Los Lobos have been playing together 39 years, but time hasn’t dimmed their enthusiasm. In particular, bassist Conrad Lozano plunked, stomped, grinned, and rocked with infectious glee, adding serious bounce to the bottom end. Joining Los Lobos onstage was opening act Joe Bonamassa, a big-voiced blues belter who added electrified sparkle to a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe.” At the risk of sounding cranky, by the time the band shifted into its closing medley — a great mix of Ritchie Valens’s “La Bamba” and the Young Rascals’ “Good Loving” — I would have preferred a little more of Hidalgo’s leads and a little less of Bonamassa’s showy virtuosity. But you can’t have everything, and the concert was a benefit for a great cause, Notes for Notes.
Notes for Notes, a nonprofit backed generously by Santa Barbara’s electric guitar pick-up manufacturer Seymour Duncan, among others — has opened professional quality recording studios in both the East- and Westside Boys & Girls Clubs, giving local teens an amazing place to cut their musical teeth, free of charge. Based on the impressive performances of several teens who’ve taken advantage of this opportunity, we can only hope Notes for Notes displays the same creative durability with which we’ve been graced by Los Lobos.