The crowd shouldn’t have needed prompting, but more than halfway through Los Lobos’ set, guitarist Cesar Rosas issued this request: “It’d be great to see you all dancing. We’ve got some room on the side here. C’mon y’all!”
Here it was, one of the great American bands of the last 30 years playing the intro to the soul classic “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” and yet most of the audience sat transfixed, seemingly enjoying themselves but remaining seated just the same.
Perhaps it was Los Lobos’ versatility that threw them. The veteran East Los Angeles rockers opened the show acoustically and singing in Spanish, playing a quintet of traditional Mexican folk songs that was as authentic as anything you would hear south of the border, with David Hidalgo replacing his guitar with an accordion on “La Pistola y El Corazón” and “Los Ojos de Pancha.”
It was after the band traded in its acoustic instruments for electric that they really flexed their musical muscles. They seamlessly bounced from one genre to another, following up the bluesy boogie of “That Train Don’t Stop Here Anymore” with the Spanish love song, “Sabor a Mí.”
Hidalgo and Rosas showed the guitar skills that have made them regulars on the annual Experience Hendrix concert tour, with the former crafting fiery, expressive solos on “Wicked Rain” and “Don’t Worry Baby,” and the latter taking the lead on a cover of Santana’s “Oye Como Va,” which managed to pull a few asses out of their seats.
Despite the crowd’s relative lifelessness, Los Lobos performed as if bodies were flying around the floor. And when they closed the 90-minute set with “La Bamba,” mashed up with the Rascals’ “Good Lovin,’” the audience’s energy finally approached that coming from the stage. ★★★☆☆