It may have been Cinco de Mayo, but Wednesday night, the opening night of its tour, Los Lobos was celebrating the release of new Hollywood/Mammoth album “The Ride.” Like the album, the show is a chance for the band members to catch their breath, look back on what they’ve accomplished and have a few friends — Cafe Tacuba, East L.A. legend Little Willie G of Thee Midnighters and Richard Thompson — over to play some music, turning the concert into a boisterous, unhurried party.
It was a chance to hear one of the finest American bands have fun, performing with an ease that only three decades together can bring. While they have reined in the noodling, jam band tendency heard at last year’s Greek Theater perf, each of the three guitarists are given plenty of room to shine. Cesar Rosas solos have a gritty muscularity, Louie Perez favors a liquid, Clapton-esque tone, and David Hidalgo brings a soulful inventiveness to songs as varied as the loping, New Orleans stroll of “The Neighborhood,” the dub-inflected waltz of “Carabina 30-30” and the straight ahead rock of “Charmed.” Little Willie G took the spotlight on his 1966 hit “It Will Never Be Over for Me,” and the band played Thompson’s “Shoot Out the Lights” with a fervor that surprised even themselves.
Their musical vocabularies may have expanded and their songwriting and performing chops have become more sophisticated, but 30 years on, Los Lobos hasn’t forgotten its roots as a dance band. No matter what style the band assayed during the two-hour show at the Avalon or how many solos expanded the songs, the groove never slackened.
Los Lobos plays Prospect Park as part of the Celebrate Brooklyn Festival on June 16 and Irving Plaza in New York the following day.