Friday night’s double bill of Los Lobos and Perla Batalla brought together east and west … Los Angeles. Which brings up an interesting question: Can it really be called “world music” — the show was part of UCLA Live’s World Music series — if you can find it outside your front door?
Both Los Lobos (the favorite sons of East L.A.) and Batalla, who grew up in Venice, play music that reflect their Hispanic heritage but the perfs at Royce Hall could only have come from Los Angeles’ cultural melting pot.
Batalla has a glorious, supple voice, with the vocal power to sing the bluesy, Bonnie Raitt-styled “Holy Roses” and the finesse needed to bring new shadings to Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire.” The majority of her 45-minute set was given over to relaxed jazz, freshened by ocean breezes and Latin rhythms.
Los Lobos returned to their beginnings as an acoustic band for the first time since 1987. While they started the show playing traditional instruments, Los Lobos are too restless a group of musicians to stick to one style; they play a style of music that could be called pan-Americana, planting a flag in Americas North (“The Wreck Of The Carlos Rey,” whose circular minor-key riff and droning viol buffeted the band into Velvet Underground territory), South (the Colombian “Cuchipe”) and Middle (an especially intimate four-song mini-set halfway through the show featuring the traditional Mexican songs they played at their first shows 25 years ago).
Filled with a warmth and generosity that only a quarter-decade together can bring, the Lobos transported Royce Hall some 15 miles east, turning the Westwood auditorium into a house party on Cesar Chavez Boulevard. They may sometimes seem a world away, but it certainly felt like home.