It’s a drizzly and warm Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018 evening, but it’s crisp and cool inside the Newton Theatre as audience members make their way inside the venue’s cozy auditorium for a live performance by the American rock band, Los Lobos!
Los Lobos — Spanish for “The Wolves” — is a band from East Los Angeles, CA. Their music is influenced by a variety of genres and styles including Tex-Mex, country, zydeco, folk, R&B, and blues, in addition to traditional Spanish folk music.
As high school students in the early 1970s, singer/guitarist David Hidalgo and drummer/guitarist Louie Pérez — both fans of artists like Randy Newman and Fairport Convention — began experimenting with recording their own music, and soon invited fellow students — notably singer/guitarist Cesar Rosas and singer/bassist Conrad Lozano — to join their group.
After recording their first commercially viable album in 1973, the group decided to incorporate more of the traditional Mexican music they listened to as children. Their new style caught on with the public, but the combo also took notice of other popular groups on the music scene and decided to add influences of rock music to their developing sound.
In 1983, Los Lobos released an EP which sold 50,000 copies. It earned them enough money to purchase a Dodge van, enabling the band to begin touring the United States. In 1984, they recorded their first major label album and followed it up in 1987 with a second, but it wasn’t until they recorded a series of Richie Valens’ covers for the soundtrack for the film, La Bamba, that they catapulted to the top of the Billboard charts with their world-famous rendition of the movie’s title track.
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Los Lobos spent the late ’80s and ’90s touring the world and opening for acts including Bob Dylan, U2, and The Grateful Dead. In the 2000s, they toured as headliners and continued to record, racking up music awards as they did so. In 2001, the group was awarded the El Premio Billboard Award, given each year to the artist whose career has globally expanded the reach of Latin music, and in 2011, they received the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2015, Los Lobos was nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
As we wait inside the Newton Theatre auditorium for the show to begin, we chat with several fans who are here today to see Los Lobos perform in person.
Says Larry from Frelinghuysen Twp, “This is my first time seeing Los Lobos! I’ve listened to their music for quite a while and I like the way they combine traditional Spanish songs with an American Tex-Mex sound. I’m also pleased to be able to see them here at the Newton Theatre. It’s a beautiful venue, and I love seeing concerts here!”
We also chat with Michelle from Syracuse, NY who says “I’m from Texas, and when I was a kid, Los Lobos had a huge following. I used to attend dances where the music was a mix of Hispanic music, rock, and blues — and that’s the same kind of thing that Los Lobos, in addition to another Texas group, Los Lonely Boys, was doing.”
As such, notes Michelle, “I’m looking forward to hearing the group tonight, because I think it will be a sentimental reminder of my days growing up in Texas.”
Revealing she has seen them several times in the past, she says she finds their amalgamation of “rock, blues, and Spanish music — with a little jam band mixed in — very comforting,” despite the fact they can be a “high-energy group!”
Michelle’s friend, Rebecca from Syracuse, has “been a fan of Los Lobos sinceLa Bamba” acknowledging, “I’ve followed them ever since.” Continuing, “I’m glad they’re performing here at the Newton Theatre,” Rebecca explains, “I love this venue — it’s an intimate setting with great views. It allows audience members to fully appreciate every artist who performs here.”
The lights dim and the audience readies for tonight’s opening act, David Wax Museum, featuring David Wax on vocals and guitar, and his wife, Suz Slezak, on vocals, violin, and accordion, in addition to a back-up band consisting of bass, drums, trumpet, and saxophone.
Opening with an energetic rendition of “Yes, Maria, Yes,” Wax and the band fill the Newton Theatre auditorium with their Mexican/Americana sound.
Highlights of their set include the catchy uptempo original, “Harder Before It Gets Easier,” and their unique performance of “Carpenter Bird,” where all six musicians leave the stage and stroll through the theater — even up into the mezzanine — where they serenade audience members “up close and personal!”
Another highlight is Wax’s new number, “Uncover the Gold,” with its backbeat rhythm and uplifting message, as is his closing song, “Guest House,” a lively cut reminiscent of Paul Simon’s “The Boy in the Bubble” which leaves the audience on its feet cheering for Wax’s heartfelt performance!
Following a short intermission — where several lively audience members can be heard shouting for the main attraction to begin — the crowd is treated to the announcement, “From East Los Angeles, Los Lobos!”
Here, the group — Cesar Rosas on guitar, Conrad Lozano on bass, Louie Pérez on bass, David Hidalgo on guitar, and Enrique “Bugs” González on drums — takes the stage, after which guitarist Rosas greets the crowd asking, “How ya doin’?”
After stating, “It’s good to be here,” he then jokes, “Where the hell are we?”
The band opens their set with an upbeat rendition of their rockabilly number, “One Time, One Night,” as audience members nod their heads and tap their toes to the infectious rhythm.
The band welcomes fall with the rock shuffle, “Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes,” as they sing, “The wind blows through the valley/It’s warm and hard and wild/It gets all up inside the trees/And shakes the leaves all night.” The audience responds with large applause.
“Thank you so much,” says Rosas,” before the group dives into the hillbilly swing number, “Evangeline,” which features a rockin’ David Hidalgo guitar solo.
“You guys speak Spanish?” asks Rosas. “Salud — to the good life!” he says after taking a sip of water. “To party in towns like this across America…” he starts before continuing, “This is a cool town. This is the first time we’ve been here” before double-checking with the crowd and joking, “Have any of you guys seen us here before?”
After performing a Spanish song, “Chuco’s Cumbia” — its Latin rhythm getting several audience members up and dancing — the band follows up with the rockin, “Whiskey Trail,” which features Hildago and Rosas on harmony vocals.
After the crowd cheers, Rosas says, “You guys are a great audience. You know how to rock!”
Here, Los Lobos performs a highlight of the evening’s concert — a funky cover version of The Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” — where Rosas rocks out on his guitar as the audience handles the lead vocal on lines like “Wherever he laid his hat was his home.”
They follow up with another breakout performance — Los Lobos’ tribute to The Allman Brothers Band — which features a cover rendition of “One Way Out” where the audience takes the lead on lines like “Might be your man, I don’t know.” Featuring Hidalgo’s Gregg Allman-like lead vocal and three electric guitars, Los Lobos recreates this song with all the feeling of the original, despite not having a single slide guitar player in the group.
“Don’t Worry Baby,” is a blues shuffle on which Rosas sings, “Standin’ there by the window/Starin’ out at the night/You’ve got so many troubles/On your nervous mind/But don’t worry baby/It’s gonna work out fine.”
The group follows up with a slow blues, “Just a Man” — an extended jam on which all three guitarists — David Hidalgo, Louie Perez, and Cesar Rosas are featured on blistering solos.
The crowd responds with hoots and hollers before the group rocks out on “Georgia Slop.” Singing, “Way down south where I make my stop/They do a dance down there called the Georgia Slop,” audience members can be seen dancing in the aisles.
“You having a good time?” asks Rosas. “We’re having a great time! And all you dancers? You swing!”
After introducing the members of the band, Rosas asks, “You guys polka?,” before the group plays a Spanish polka and they follow that up with a bluesy Spanish tune. Afterwards, Garcia says, “This goes out to Jerry Garcia. Everybody up!” at which point the audience screams and jumps out of their seats as Los Lobos performs their country-rockin’ tribute number to The Grateful Dead, “Bertha.”
As audience members play air guitar, the band sings with passion, “I am on my bended knees/Bertha, don’t you come around here anymore,” and Louie Pérez plays an intricate guitar solo while being deftly accompanied by Conrad Lozano on bass and Enrique “Bugs” González on drums.
On their feet, the crowd responds with excited cheers and applause!
“Thank you! Adios amigos!” says Rosas as the group leaves the stage. The ovation continues, however, and the group returns. Electric guitars are traded in for acoustic instruments and the band launches into their first encore number, a traditional song entitled “Teresa” which features an unusual meter.
The audience whoots and hollers and Rosas replies by exclaiming, “You guys are awesome!” Then, the band follows up with yet another highlight of tonight’s concert, a live rendition of their #1 chart-topping record, “La Bamba,” which has the entire audience clapping, dancing, and singing along.
As the party continues, without missing a beat, the group keeps the good times coming by segueing into The Rascal’s “Good Lovin’” — which has the audience singing along — before they float back into “La Bamba’ for a satisfying conclusion.
“Thank you…adios…and God bless you!” say Los Lobos.
As the crowd files out of the auditorium, we catch up with Los Lobos’ drummer Enrique “Bugs” González, who sums up tonight’s concert from a performer’s perspective stating, “The Newton Theatre is great — what a wonderful audience, and such a beautiful venue— we thank everyone for making us feel so much at home!”
We also chat with several members of the crowd who share their opinions of tonight’s performance.
First, we chat with three friends from Sparta.
Says Joe, “It was a great concert! David Wax Museum’s performance was a pleasant surprise — it was very entertaining — and I enjoyed seeing Los Lobos,” before adding, “I’ve been listening to them since the ’80s and this was my first time hearing them play live.”
Whereas John from Sparta calls tonight’s concert a “great show!” Nicole from Sparta simply says, “I loved it!”
Next, we chat with a trio of friends from Lebanon who — after more than three decades — came to see Los Lobos perform live again.
Says Lori, “I loved tonight’s performance,” before explaining, “The last time I saw Los Lobos was 32 years ago, and it was definitely worth coming here to see them again!”
Her husband, Jim, jokes, “In 32 years, we’ll come back again!” before noting how much he also enjoyed the music of David Wax Museum.
Their friend, Art, who was with Lori and Jim at their first Los Lobos concert 32 years ago exclaims, “It was worth the wait!”
Lastly, we chat with Liz from Lebanon who acknowledges, “I just love Latin music, and Los Lobos played it with an amazing amount of energy tonight,” before concluding, “They were simply fantastic!”
To learn more about Los Lobos, please go to loslobos.org. For further information about upcoming concerts at The Newton Theatre — including Renaissance on Nov. 16, The Roseanne Cash Band on Dec. 1, and LeAnn Rimes on Feb. 7, 2019 — please click on thenewtontheatre.comPhotos by Love Imagery
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