Side projects from members of Los Lobos have been in steady supply this year, with Cesar Rosas pursuing the simple pleasures of regional roots rock, blues and soul on his solo album “Soul Disguise” (Rykodisc). While Rosas’ first musical love may sound overly familiar on disk, it’s a natural for a live setting, particularly when performed with the spark and affection that the lone Wolf and his backing ensemble lavish upon it.
Rosas, emanating cool as always behind his trademark goatee and sunglasses, entertained diehard Lobos fans with a 90-minute set featuring selections from his new album, a few beloved traditional Mexican songs and a handful of his better-known contributions to his full-time band. His backing ensemble was extraordinarily tight, particularly impressive in that this represents a side project more than an ongoing concern.
The evening offered a largely no-muss, no-fuss approach to Rosas’ tasty musical stew, which is clearly how he believes such pure music should be attacked. One wonders what he makes of his fellow Lobos’ more dissonant noodling. He doesn’t say much from the stage and there’s little swagger behind his fiery, if economic, guitar solos; Rosas may saunter or, more often, stand immobile and drink in his own playing, like B.B. King.
Rosas’ Los Lobos composition “That Train Don’t Stop Here,” from “Kiko,” was occasion for an extended jam. But beyond that, only accordionist Jimmy Baca was allowed other solos; other than “Train” and “Volver,” performances of Rosas’ songs were short, sweet and to the point.
One thing’s for certain — Rosas isn’t much for ballads. There are only a couple on his new album, and none were performed Saturday night. Were it not for the welcome interludes of norteno music, the programming choice could’ve made for a pretty one-note show.