Monday night at the City Winery, it felt like Los Lobos served as their own warm-up band. They hit the stage promptly at 8 PM and played 40 minutes of adequate, but uninspired music before taking a break. Maybe this is it, I thought. Maybe 49 years of touring have left them without the stamina to captivate an audience. Maybe they have reached the point in their careers where it is enough for them to show up and play all the correct notes.
But, after 20 minutes, the band returned to the stage with renewed energy. With each song, they seemed to gain momentum. Their catalog includes originals and covers; ballads, blues, and rock & roll and they drew from it all. But Los Lobos is at their best when they infuse Latin music with rock rhythms. It is here that their East Los Angeles roots shine through and when we hear their enthusiasm for their chosen art form.
A packed house sensed the increased intensity, singing, clapping, and dancing to the music.
The show ended with an adrenalin-charged encore of cover songs. It began with The Sir Douglas Quintet's "She's About a Mover", followed by their biggest hit: Richie Valens’ "La Bamba". Los Lobos first recorded this song for the soundtrack of the "La Bamba" movie; but, on this night, they transformed it into a medley, interspersing The Young Rascals' "Good Lovin'" between the verses. The result was electric and brought the crowd to its collective feet.
This was my third time seeing Los Lobos and the first time I have seen them perform indoors. I can believe that it takes a few minutes for a band that plays so many outdoor festivals to warm up to the intimacy of a small club like City Winery. Whatever the reason, their finish was much stronger than their beginning.