A Subdued but Still Vital Night With Los Lobos


Tragedy is no stranger to rock ‘n’ roll. Recent years have seen such artists as Paul McCartney and Courtney Love stung by it. And when it touched Los Lobos twice recently--in the death in a fire of drummer Louis Perez’s father-in-law and the apparent murder of the wife of singer-guitarist Cesar Rosas--the injury was suffered by a band beloved not only for its music, but also for symbolizing the cultural richness of Los Angeles.

The disappearance and presumed murder of Sandra Rosas caused Los Lobos to cancel virtually all their scheduled concerts (an exception being a New Year’s Eve show at downtown’s Plaza Olvera). So the band’s performance at the Ventura Theatre on Tuesday was a welcome chance to again hear the cross-cultural rock and folk of these lifelong collaborators.

There was no mention of recent events, but the concert began with a noticeably subdued energy level. It was not the band at its very best--look to its epic homecoming gigs at the Greek Theatre for that--but the energy picked up with rip-roaring takes on the heartland rock of “Will the Wolf Survive” and the Spanglish hard rock of “Mas Y Mas.”


Songs from the band’s new “This Time” album were solid and more groove-oriented, but ultimately less rewarding than recent albums by Rosas and the splinter group Latin Playboys, suggesting that numerous side projects have finally taken a toll.

But soon Rosas and David Hidalgo were harmonizing through “Corazon” in a sound both festive and urgent, as couples twirled in the aisles. Wearing his usual sunglasses, Rosas sang the classic Mexican tear-jerker “Volver” in sturdy, wounded tones as he slowly strummed his electric guitar.

The band ended the night with a lengthy guitar wind-out that included both “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and a devastating re-creation of Cream’s version of “Crossroads.” It was more than enough to demonstrate that for all the band’s recent tragedies, Los Lobos retains the power and conviction to carry on.