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Los Lobos survive just fine

City Winery Boston, Boston, December 18, 2019

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

The seemingly inconceivable happened at Los Lobos' first of two shows in Beantown. No "La Bamba." No "Will the Wolf Survive?"

How could it be that the 46-year-old band from East LA played without those chestnuts? Well, that was their choice on this night, and while doubtlessly expected, the songs ultimately were not missed.

That's because Los Lobos had more than a few quality songs in their musical quiver over the course of two sets. They made that clear starting with one of their classics, "One Time, One Night" and following up a few songs later with "Evangeline."

During the night, they played material from throughout their long history with about four songs from the just released and first Christmas album, "Llego Navidad." As on the release, the band stayed away from tried-and-true holiday fare.

Instead, they turned in a muscular cover of Fred Fender's "It's Christmas in Texas" along with a few other Spanish-language songs.

Lead singers David Hidalgo - he took most of them - and Cesar Roses (ever cool with his shades) alternated between English and Spanish songs with bassist Conrad Lozano offering lead vocals on the Cuban staple "Guantanamera." He also traded his bass for the Mexican guitar, the guitarron on several songs with the very large instrument adding a lot of texture to the sound.

In the case of Los Lobos, the sound varied throughout the night from roots to Mexican to holiday sounds to the blues and cumbia ("Chuco's Cumbia").

Los Lobos grew musically feistier as the second set wore on. Near the end, Rosas jokingly asked, "What happened? All of a sudden, it was 1969." That was just after an extended blues romp, which included what sounded like Los Lobos' take on the Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post."

The band did not let up there, keeping a heavy, psychedelic-veering sound until the end of the two-plus hour show.

Los Lobos may be long in the tooth as a band. Maybe it was just as well that "La Bamba" and "Will the Wolf Survive" were not part of the set list on this night. With the holiday fare and other cuts from throughout their career, Los Lobos are surviving just fine.