Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Los Lobos and The Lowrider Band at the Anaheim House of Blues

One last concert before years end. Actually it was only my second concert since ACL. How could that happen? And now after all these years, I'm going to see Los Lobos. Twice I've had tickets and had to sell them. Twice, they have been at ACL and I ended up at another stage. And so finally, on a beautiful Southern California post Christmas night, we squeezed into the House of Blues to see this now legendary band.

"Who is the opening band", Maria asked me. I had no idea. So, I was really surprised when Cesar came out and not only introduced them, but called them the band that had the largest influence on Los Lobos. And so, these old guys come out and start to play some of their songs. You know where this is going, don't you? Maybe you've heard some of their songs: The Cisco Kid, The World is a Ghetto, Why Can't We Be Friends, Slipping Into Darkness and of course Low Rider. Yep, they are most of what was once called War, the funk band that backed Eric Burdon for a time and produced another hit, "Spill the Wine". Their producer/agent owns the name War now and so the keyboardist (probably the least interesting part of the band) is now touring as War. Now, back in the 70's, I knew all of this music because radio played it. But I was more interested in prog rock or folk rock. I really didn't know much about them. So, seeing these guys perform for the first time was a real treat. The first thing you notice right off is that Lee Oskar's harmonica playing is out of this world. He is easily one of the greats and his jams were amazing. The rest of the band loved jamming too and so what you have here is a funk jam band. Loved it. They played all of the hits during their hour set, but they were all fresh because of the free form style. They had the whole place bouncing and singing along. What a treat.

Los Lobos is going to have to pull out all of the stops if they are going to compete. After about a 30 minute wait, out they come, playing a mid tempo song that David had to use a cheat sheet for to remember the lyrics. And then they kicked it into gear, digging back into the 80's for some rockabilly and never letting up the rest of the night. But the real fun didn't start until about a half hour into the show when they played a song that was inspired by the late great James Brown. It was sort of a blues number but with THAT energy. Joining them was Lee Oskar and the sax player. Lee pretty much stayed on stage for the rest of the night as Los Lobos jammed their way through a wide selection of music. What a band they are, playing all forms of rock including blues and rockabilly and then all forms for Latino music; from sambas to mambas to polkas to boleros. It was an amazing blend of music. And how interesting it was to hear harmonica during a bolero. Also joining LL on stage was blues singer Willie G, who among other things, led them in a fun cover of JB's "I Feel Good". 100 minutes later it was all over. What a night. I have to add this to my list of best concerts of the year.

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