They didn’t look like rock stars when they started 40 years ago in East Los Angeles. And Tuesday night at the Egg’s mostly filled Hart Theater, the members of Los Lobos still didn’t look like rock stars.
Despite their relaxed, unassuming stage behavior and attire, they rocked like the youngsters they once were, trying to get out of the L.A. circuit.
They opened up with oldies, “our first 10 hits,” according to Cesar Rosas, “or non-hits. Misses.”
They opened with a trio of fast-paced songs feeling east of their Tex-Mex reputation, jumping a little like a New Orleans sound, particularly with David Hidalgo on the accordion. They then settled into a string of straight up rock tunes from later in their career, like “Will the Wolf Survive?” sung by Hidalgo, followed by Rosas singing “Set Me Free (Rosa Lee).” Here, Steve Berlin took a nice sax solo, one of many through the night.
Rosas sang a pretty, somewhat slow and sad “Little Things,” then came a dark, menacing desert-rock song, “Burn it Down.”
In the first 40 minutes, they sampled a wide range of American music, including a guitar-led jam that hinted at their age but still held together.
The second set loosened a little further, Hidalgo stretching a bit on his guitar, and Enrique Gonzalez pumping in the back on the drums. Gonzalez is a animated drummer, using big, graceful strokes to thwack his deeply-toned drums. He was always fun to watch — during the slow and fast tunes. He liked to clap for the band after a good tune.
They covered Traffic’s “40,000 Headman,” a song you don’t really hear anymore, if ever, with Hidalgo singing and Berlin blowing a sweet flute solo.
Then came heavy blues, and you could hardly recognize the band again. Hidalgo again handled vocals, the rhythm in a slow drag led by a simple beat from Gonzalez, with Berlin blowing a raspy sax while Rosas, Hidalgo and bassist Conrad Lozano sang together, sounding like a Little Feat chorus.
Rosas followed with “That Train Don’t Stop Here,” another shuffling blues song, this time fast and smooth. Call it swing, something else they were able to do quite naturally, with Hidalgo playing a few rounds of solo, then Rosas taking his first solo of the night. Rosas plays lefty — worth mentioning since there are so few. He doesn’t have the skills Hidalgo has, but he had enough to get the place cooking over one solid solo.
They followed with “Tears of God,” a ballad, before heading into the homestretch by ripping into a fast southern rock instrumental, everyone at high volume and high energy. It wasn’t the best thing they did Tuesday night — it was a little forced — but it was still good. Another one came two songs later, Rosas singing “Don’t Worry Baby,” the whole group sounding like ZZ Top at its heaviest.
Yes, Los Lobos has L.A.- Mexican musical roots. Yes, they have years behind them to hone their wide-ranging style. But in the end, Los Lobos is a rock band. People come to see them rock more than anything else, and that’s what they did Tuesday night more than anything else.