Los Lobos : Higher Ground, South Burlington, VT – 12/12/07

It was just about a year ago that Los Lobos nearly tore the roof off of Higher Ground. This year’s appearance at the South Burlington venue was slightly shorter and slightly less ambitious, but no less satisfying in its own way.

In a groove seemingly from their first note and downbeat, Los Lobos concentrated on bluesy vintage originals like "I Got Loaded," healthy homage to their roots and plenty of R&B flavored numbers such as the tribute to Fats Domino "Fat Man." It was not a tour de force, but rather an exhibition of the fact musical transcendence, for both audience and performer, does not have to be grounded in epic improvisation or complex composition.

At least not when the artist displays the intrinsic musicality and a pure joy in playing that this band does. Commenting on the recent dates opening for John Mellencamp, guitarist/vocalist David Hidalgo inferred how much he and his band of brothers were looking forward to ‘..taking their time…’ on stage. Hidalgo may be the most musical blues guitarist of our time and his finely-honed, exquisitely intense soloing the likes of which appeared during “I Walk Alone” was an increasing pleasure as the night went on.

If Hidalgo didn’t take such relish in strapping on the accordion—certainly equal to the enthusiasm of Louie Perez as he assumed his former spot at the drums—an attendee might’ve felt shortchanged during the segment of rootsy music from the Lobos neighborhood of east LA including “Kiko”. But even if Conrad Lozano’s rich basslines were less prominent here, the return to electric rock, including young drummer Cougar Estrada’s quick, nimble turn in the spotlight, was certainly worth the wait.

Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy” suits the yearning quality in Hidalgo’s voice, while the jagged guitar in the bridge, initiated by he of the perpetual sunglasses Cesar Rosas set the stage perfectly for a segue into an even more highly-powered cover: this atmospheric “Are You Experienced?” of Hendrix spoke directly to the people who came out to hear Los Lobos. If the uncharacteristically muddy sound affected either the performers or their audience, it didn’t show here.

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