Jukebox: Los Lobos portrays cultural assimilation

They play The Egg on Sunday
East Los Angeles rockers Los Lobos played SPAC last July.
East Los Angeles rockers Los Lobos played SPAC last July.

Cool bands keep coming: NRBQ in November, Jack DeJohnette in December, Alejandro Escovedo and Pat Metheny this month; and Los Lobos plays The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) Sunday.

Los Lobos packed thunder and lighting into their short set in July with the Tedeschi Trucks Band and the North Mississippi All-Stars at SPAC. Members of both bands — plus singer Syd Straw! — chimed in powerfully, coloring Los Lobos’ sound and riding to a stunning climax in “Mas y Mas” — Spanish for “More and More.”

On Sunday, “more and more” means a full set; a good thing, because Los Lobos take their time to build jubilant waves of music. They’re patient, powerful; and they use the sound and soul of a specific place (east LA) to tell universal truths that hit ears and hearts anywhere with drama and drive.

Los Lobos still play Mexican folk tunes, and rock insightful snapshots of America today. Maybe more than any other band, Los Lobos portrays the beautiful possibilities of cultural assimilation.

For this depth, and sheer skill, Los Lobos are a spectacularly diverse cover band. They can play any song and make it fit. They’ve played Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” the Grateful Dead’s “Bertha” and others including the Dead’s version of the Rascals’ “Good Lovin’ ” (cover of a cover), Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl,” Bob Marley’s “Waiting in Vain,” the Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” — all on shows here.

I’ve considered them one of our very greatest bands since I first saw them in an LA club in 1985.

Local highlights include MASSMoCA’s first-ever rock show (1999), a Washington Park Second Wind show (2005) fans still talk about with awe, and more recent shows at The Egg. Los Lobos is David Hidalgo, Louie Perez and Cesar Rosas, guitars and antique stringed things; Conrad Lozano, bass; Steve Berlin, keyboards and saxes, and Enrique “Bugs” Gonzalez, drums. 7:30 p.m. $39.50, $34.50. 473-1845, www.theegg.org.


Maggie Roche died on Saturday of cancer at 65.

Small, deep-voiced Maggie sang with middle sister Terre on mentor Paul Simon’s “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon” and their duets album “Seductive Reasoning” (1975). Youngest sister Suzzy joined in 1975.
First the Roches were carolers, then folk-club stars, then recording artists on their 1979 self-named debut, best-seller of their 13 albums. Maggie also recorded two albums each with each sister. “Zero Church,” a prayers collection made with Suzzy in 2002, is a fervent masterpiece that works beautifully as farewell because they sing so sincerely after, for example, such arch full-trio onstage shtick as singing “Hallelujah Chorus” note-perfectly while doing their nails.

The Roches sang everywhere here, from their 1979 area debut at the long-gone Hullaballoo to their last local show in 2007 at Music Haven. They were, in a word, wonderful.

Scaling down from his Unity quintet show in 2014 at Proctors, leaving his steam-punk Orchestrion behind, Pat Metheny led a quartet at The Egg’s (larger) Hart Theatre last week: a sold-out, straight-ahead, crowd-pleasing two-hours-plus performance.

Guitarists don’t copy Metheny’s bright, treble sound; its breezy cheerfulness may make his playing sound deceptively easy. After a serene solo opener on 42-string harp-guitar — two necks, strings and riffs everywhere — Metheny brought on new pianist Gwilym Simcock and bassist Linda Oh, plus longtime drummer Antonio Sanchez; the most articulate voice (apart from Metheny) in this poetic band. They roamed Metheny’s deep songbook, often playing a scrap of melody before turning it inside out. Noting he’d departed from his setlist, Metheny never announced tuned, suggesting fans ask their neighbors.

OK: “Is this ‘Bright Size Life’?” “Maybe, or ‘San Lorenzo’?” What they played mattered less than how; and that was low-key/brilliantly. A cozy country vamp swept into a whirling waltz; a dream made of mist formed a bouncy riff that curled in on itself before leaping into space. Metheny made shimmery, deft single-note runs on acoustic or electric guitars or used that trumpet-like sustain he favors on guitar synthesizer. He generously backed his band mates when they soloed; when he led, they rode in the pocket.

Reach Gazette Columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected].

Categories: Entertainment

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