TX:Presented by Bill Silva Presents. Reviewed May 18, 1996. Los Lobos has become one of the most enjoyable summer regulars in Southern California. The band’s nearly annual outdoor concerts turn into block parties for hometown fans, nearly three-hour celebrations of Mexican traditional and American contemporary fused with artistry, might and invention. But as the band continues down an adventurous path on albums such as “Kiko” and “Colossal Head,” working on the films “Feeling Minnesota” and “Desperado,” and in side projects such as the Latin Playboys, a point is reached where old skin concedes to newgrowth. In L.A. , it’s beginning to happen. The road version of Los Lobos is an artsier troupe, one that fully chugs to a meter that’s half a world of time signatures removed from the 1-2 beat of norteno music. At San Diego’s newest venue, 4th and B, a remodeled bank, Los Lobos leaned on medium tempos and new, jagged material.
The first sounds from Steve Berlin were on the flute instead of his raucous baritone sax as acid jazz and hip-hop joined the litany of source points in the Lobos’ music. On Saturday, Los Lobos boldly started in new terrain and cut a path to the familiar. The transformation from party band to full concert act — told through sampled sounds, bullhorn vocals and Spanish blues — is complete.
Yet as different as the textures of “Colossal Head,” 1992’s “Kiko” and ’84’s “Will the Wolf Survive” may be, a common thread runs through the new “Everybody Loves a Train” and the title tracks of their two finest albums (“Kiko” and “Wolf”), exemplifying how well Los Lobos manipulates rock ‘n’ roll from inside out. The core, however, remains the same.
Guitarist David Hidalgo continues to flourish and amaze. His fluid solos, even with distortion cranked, and his immense range earn him a spot on the roster of expert rock guitarists. He always shows up with something to say; as Los Lobos’ material has grown, so, too, has Hidalgo’s musicianship. The sumptuous tandem drumming of Victor Bisetti and Louie Perez continues to impress.
But Los Lobos’ condensed, less-than-two-hour concert left a sense that something was missing. Three Mexican standards were not enough; another ballad or two could have given the set a greater dynamic; and the rave-ups that defined the band early on were forsaken.
Los Lobos has reached a place where it takes a few nights of changing set lists to get a full definition of the band, a challenge it should be able to answer.