(recently published at jambands.com/Relix; direct link)
During his show-opening solo set at the historic Palladium Theater, Compton native Keb Mo described headliners Los Lobos as being “from just down the road” in East Los Angeles. Left unstated: In addition to their geographical kinship is a sort-of musical connection, as both draw heavily from the blues.
Mo, alternating between his acoustic and resonator guitars, demonstrated his well-known skills as a soulful singer, adept six-stringer, and warm, friendly and funny crowd pleaser, handily mixing his kind of blues with strains of R&B and pop . He offered a bit of social commentary with “Government Cheese,” and sang about the joys of love – whether sweet (“Life is Beautiful”) or maybe over the top (“Dangerous Mood”). Halfway through the comical “Shave ‘Yo Legs,” stage power inadvertently dropped and Mo went unplugged, segueing into a sing-along on the chestnut “Stand By Me” and the woe-is-me “Suitcase.”
Los Lobos, easily affirming the group’s well-earned reputation as a great American rock ‘n’ roots band, opened with the tumbling drums, snaking bass line and flavorful baritone sax of “Dream in Blue,” with the electric guitars of Cesar Rosas, David Hidalgo, and Louie Perez eventually turning spacey.
The band always has excelled at an appealing loose-tight dynamic, moving from tune to tune in a seemingly casual, unscripted manner, but locking down hard on infectious grooves. When Rosas asked “What are we doing?”, Hidalgo responded with “You wanna rock out?” And the band shifted to “Born Under a Bad Sign,” with Mo brought back to sing and play his Strat. Rosas dug deep with his solo, and Mo led the band into a little “Funky Broadway,” employing some George Benson-style guitar-voice scat.
As is their habit, Los Lobos mixed longtime favorites with unexpected gems and unusual covers, the latter including Temptations hit “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and blues chestnut “One Way Out,” an Allmans signature song.
The 100-minute set, featuring music dating all the way back to 1983’s “…And a Time to Dance” EP, also included Spanish-language dance songs “Maricela” and the cumbia “Yo Canto”; the laidback, easy-grooving “Hearts of Stone”; and the moody, atmospheric “Kiko and the Lavender Moon,” with Hidalgo pumping his gold-sparkle push-button accordion.
Other tunes – “Rosalie,” “Come On, Let’s Go” — had the band sounding like old-school garage rockers. And a raucous “Don’t Worry, Baby” was a late concert show stopper.