David Hidalgo - guitar, vocals, percussion; Cesar Rosas - guitar, vocals, mandolin; Oscar Roasa - guitar, mandolin, vocals; Steve Berlin - harmonica, percussion, saxophone; Conrad Lozano - bass, guitar; Louis Perez - drums, guitar; Guests: David Hidalgo, Jr - drums on 15; Los Villains members - percussion on 18 Medley; Ozomatli members- horns on 18 Medley
Equally adept at rock, blues, folk, R&B, Americana, as well as traditional Spanish and Latin American idioms, Los Lobos have continually blurred boundaries and in the process have become one of the most successful Chicano bands of all time. Like many aspiring 1960s era groups, Los Lobos began playing rock 'n' roll and R&B covers geared toward dancing, but by the mid-1970s had begun mastering traditional Mexican styles. David Hidalgo, the primary lead singer and most accomplished musician of the group co-writes much of the band's material with drummer/guitarist/lyricist Louis Perez. Cesar Rosas, the second lead guitarist and primary singer of the songs with Spanish lyrics is also a gifted musician who provides a distinct bluesy edge to the group. With the exception of sax player, Steve Berlin, who defected from the Blasters to join Los Lobos in the early 1980s, all the band members have been together since attending Garfield High School in East Los Angeles.
The longevity of the band and their unique chemistry is a direct result of years of experience playing every imaginable type of gig during their formative years and learning how to fuse many seemingly diverse styles of music into a cohesive stage show. Variety has always been a crucial element in the group's gritty, yet often graceful performances. Inspired by the raw energy of the new wave and punk scenes developing in the early 1980s, Los Lobos developed their own fusion of high energy rock and traditional Mexican music that, despite being played by older seasoned musicians, struck a nerve among younger listeners. With a career that now spans nearly four decades, Los Lobos has won the respect of listeners, concertgoers, and critics alike, as they continue to spread the word of rock and traditional Mexican music the world over.
A long-standing annual tradition for Los Lobos is a run of shows at the Fillmore in San Francisco every December. Every year has included many memorable performances, often accompanied by special guests joining the band on stage. Indeed this is where the band wisely chose to record its first live album and DVD in 2005. The San Francisco audience has always embraced the band, inspiring particularly magnificent performances. One of the best of these annual San Francisco runs occurred on December 4th and 5th of 1998, when Los Lobos again took the stage of the Fillmore, accompanied by many guest musicians including Santana, percussionist Karl Perazza, Ritchie Valens' brother Mario Valenzuela on harmonica, and members of Los Villains and Ozomatli contributing horns and additional percussion. Riding high on the success of the 1992 album Kiko and its raw, harder-rocking follow-up, the 1996 album Colossal Head, this two night run featured powerful performances spanning the band's entire career. While the second night (also available here in the Concert Vault) remains one of Los Lobos' most diverse and adventurous performances ever, the first night is equally worthy of attention.
Presented here is the Bill Graham Presents soundboard master recording of that opening night in its entirety. The set kicks off with a spooky rendition of "Someday," similar in tone and structure to "I Put a Spell on You," that wouldn't feature on an album for another seven years. Three Spanish lyric numbers follow, beginning with another new song, "Cumbia Raza," which would surface on the This Time album the following year, followed by the pairing of the standout Kiko track, "Dream In Blue," with the lovely "Maricela" from their Colossal Head album. Another highlight of that same album, "Revolution," becomes the launching pad for a series of jams, all of which are remarkable. From "Revolution," the band then eases their way into psychedelic territory with an engaging read on Traffic's "Dear Mr. Fantasy." The second pairing features two of the group's originals, beginning with "That Train Don't Stop Here" paired up "Why Do You Do?" However, the most interesting segue follows, as Los Lobos delivers their own smoldering take on Neil Young's "Down by the River," which eventually culminates in "Up the Line."
Mixing things up, Cesar Rosas next leads the band on the romantic "Estoy Sentado Aqui," followed by another vintage track by request, "Anselma." The uptempo Cajun number "I'm Gonna be Wheel Someday" continues where "Anselma" leaves off and sets the stage for the ominous "Kiko And the Lavender Moon."
Following this, guests begin appearing, beginning with David Hidalgo, Jr. taking a seat at the drums during a bluesy romp through Gregg Allman's "Don't Keep Me Wonderin." A raunchy "Georgia Slop" is up next, followed by a rocking "Marie Marie" that precedes the big finale. The final blowout begins sparsely with the core band messing around on "Big Boss Man" and "Sweet Home Chicago," but then sails off into the equally bluesy "Don't Worry, Baby" from the bands' 1984 breakthrough, How Will the Wolf Survive. After this, things head toward what turns out to be an incendiary jam, with sax-man Steve Berlin clearly leading the way. As this jam progresses, Los Lobos is joined on stage by members of Los Villains and Ozomatli. With the Villains adding percussive density and the Ozomatli horns adding punch and power, this is a remarkable sequence that includes the deep funk grooves of "Funky Good Time" morphing into an exploration of Sly Stone's classic "Sex Machine," before culminating in an absolutely rip-roaring take on the Colossal Head track "Mas Y Mas." To experience the guitar prowess of Hidalgo and Rosas, as well as the high-powered grooves this band is capable of, look no further, as this is one hell-raising performance that enraptures the Fillmore audience and pummels any remaining doubters into submission.
The audience has no intention of letting the band go without an encore, and after several minutes of applause, the band returns for an extended jam on "Bertha," the Grateful Dead cover they contributed to Deadicated: A Tribute to the Grateful Dead back in 1991. Needless to say, this is a rip-roaring version that cooks for a solid 10 minutes, bringing their set to a close by channeling Jerry Garcia's spirit into the heady mix. Taken as a whole, this high quality recording is a prime example of Los Lobos' relentlessly adventurous spirit, when they had transcended all their influences to become a creative force of their own.