A question is begging to be asked: How in the hell could it have taken Los Lobos 30 years to release its first live album? For a band that thrives on the stage, the elusive – and requisite – live album has been long overdue.
Right. I know. They released it. I listened to it. Why all the complaining?
As long as I can remember being a fan of America's most underrated band, I've spent a lot of that time hoping they'd release a live album and even more time wondering why they haven't. I mean come on already. Everyone else has. And everyone else is not as good.
Some of that appetite was rightly whetted by choice cuts on Just Another Band From East LA. But it's been 12 years since they put that box together, and those unique morsels have nearly worn their luster right off. In fact, it seemed to make that gaping live hole in an otherwise-pristine canon that much more frustrating. Plus, on the East Coast, we usually get the short end of the stick when it comes to tour. Well it's about damn time!
And here it is, Live at the Fillmore, in all its gritty glory, decades in the making. With such buildup, this record had very little chance of succeeding and every chance of failing. The longer they waited to release it, the more perfect they had to make it ("perfect" being a relative term, of course). But why should I have expected anything less than a perfect record?
Eschewing live favorites like "How Will the Wolf Survive?" and "Evangeline" and casting aside popular covers like "La Bamba" and "Bertha," Los Lobos took the usual chance that they won't be making any new fans. Instead, they satisfied their long-time fans by doing the best they know – givin' it to 'em straight.
Live at the Fillmore is Los Lobos on stage, warts and all, and fans will rejoice in its accuracy.
Kicking in with the ferocious roar of "Good Morning Aztlan," it's hard to imagine anyone being disappointed by the album's opening hook. But just as easily as they can sound meaner than the hammers of hell, they can deftly play the sunny, Mexicali beach bar band, as evidenced by the readings of other lesser-known cuts like "How Much Can I Do?" and the ballady "Maria Christina."
The low-down, dirty, and mean "Viking" stands in stark contrast to David Hidalgo's oozing soul on the lovely "Rita" and the even sweeter "Tears of God." Cesar Rosas' mean-street blues "I Walk Alone" is deceivingly beautiful when set against the art-rock "Kiko and the Lavender Room." One of the best songs on one of their best albums, "Kiko" stretches to perfect parameters on stage. More importantly, the band can speak to its masses through the dull swing of "The Neighborhood" and the apropos encore of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On."
There's no easier way to communicate with people than through music – the universal language. So, whether it be the obvious Spanish songs, the English ones, or even the occasional Spanglish, Live at the Fillmore proves that Los Lobos is on a much higher and more important plane than any band trying to make such a statement today. And a bonus acoustic EP, Acoustic En Vivo, intensifies that claim, providing even more diverse proof of the astounding talents of the greatest band most everyone continues to ignore.
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