Last Saturday night, Los Tigres del Norte played to a packed crowd at the Bowl and took care of business. With a career spanning more than 40 years, The Tigers of the North (aka Boss of Bosses) have conquered six Grammys, six Latin Grammys, countless movie cameos, and a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame with their unique Johnny Cash-AC/DC-accordion-Charles Bronson-Spanish-Death Wish sound. They have left an untouchable legacy depicting the nitty-gritty truths that thread from Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and California.
When you see Los Tigres live, it is astonishing how talented they really are. The silver-Versace-suited, black-leather-pant-wearing group is composed of a drummer and a conga player with four vocalizing frontmen that double on bass guitar, acoustic guitar, accordion, and saxophone; these guys all sing and play their respective instruments and make it look easy. Because of their flexible music ensemble, they are able to play their trademark gunmetal two-step, waltz, hard-rock bolero, and a unique version of cumbia and merengue. The stoic and stage-polished group is always ready with a photo-op pose, and occasionally a duo will engage in a Russian-roulette dance of death, stage center. The cowboy-hat-wearing Jorge Hernández has a Mexican Zeus–like finger-point that he aims at the audience; when it’s directed at you, you’d swear you’re staring at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
As for the scene: The alcoholic beverage stand was sold out by 8:30 p.m., the aisles were full of dancing couples wearing leather boots, coyote calls rang out continuously, and every two seconds the guy standing behind me yelled, “Arriba la Rasa!” I even joined in and yelled to the reigning holy mother, La Reina del Sur, “Viva la Fiesta!” but I don’t think she heard me. Even the yellow-shirted security guards had subtle two-step bounces in their arms-crossed stances.
Behind those Mexican John Wayne personas, Los Tigres show their humility and appreciation to their fans by posing for front-row selfies and taking handwritten song requests. They were always thanking the audience and even played their version of “Happy Birthday” to one of the audience member’s aunt Teresa. When they finished their set, the crowd yelled for another — “Otra! Otra!” — and the guys walked right back center stage, dimmed the lights, and played for another half hour with the whole audience on their feet dancing. During their encore of “Somos Más Americanos,” which details the history and plight of the American colonization, the crowd went absolutely crazy. It changed my life forever, and after the end of the show, I vowed I would buy a cowboy hat.