Santa Barbara was ready for this two-night stand by Los Lobos at the Lobero. After the long pandemic hiatus, it felt great to get back together and be drenched in the glorious immersive sound of Southern California’s greatest band. The well-chosen opener, ranchera artist Nancy Sanchez, helped familiarize the audience with offering gritos, those idiosyncratic high-pitched shouts that show Mexican musicians your love and attention. Brava to Sanchez for taking on the formidable task of warming up a crowd eager to hear Los Lobos.
Los Lobos’ set on Friday night, October 8, came packed with danceable cumbia yet remained flexible enough to accommodate an achingly beautiful cover of “Sail On, Sailor,” a Beach Boys track that Lobos singer David Hidalgo acknowledged by shouting out Hawthorne, the Wilson kids’ hometown. What Los Lobos does these days is deeply informed by their lifelong understanding of music and place. Look no further than their burning interpretation of “Love Special Delivery” by Whittier Boulevard forerunners Thee Midniters, which guitarist Louie Pérez turned into the occasion for a psychedelic guitar face melter.
Other choice moments included “Kiko and the Lavender Moon,” “Evangeline,” the Blasters’ wailing rockabilly-tinged classic “Flat Top Joint,” and an encore that merged “La Bamba” with “Goodlovin’.” Respect to these elders — the incomparable Hidalgo, Pérez, Cesar Rosas, Steve Berlin, Conrad Lozano, and Enrique “Bugs” González. They know what we all need, what we really need, and that’s “good love,” preferably live and in person.