Los Lobos Howl at KCA

By Cary Stemle

As anyone who saw Los Lobos on The Tonight Show recently knows, the band is doing things musically that no other band is doing.

Performing "Dream In Blue," a song from the current hit album Kiko that the band also performed at their July 17 Lonesome Pine show, the Lobos confirmed a notion apparent at the Kentucky Center that they were still exploring and understanding the possibilities of their material.

"Dream In Blue," like much of Kiko, allows the musicians to stretch out, to take the songs in any of several directions. It's changed even in the four weeks since they were in town.

The song personifies Los Lobos, with all of the elements in evidence. The dynamic multi-rhythmic drumming. The bluesy, psychedelic rhythm guitar. The dissonant duel melodies of lead guitarist David Hidalgo and baritone saxophonist Steve Berlin. And the aura of cool underlying the whole mix.

Los Lobos is exciting not primarily because of their playing, which is nonetheless impeccable. Rather their strength lies in the ability to twist, bend, stretch and impel their songs into purely original takes on rock, country, blues, jazz, folk and more.

Throw in a mature lyrical vision that runs the range from melancholy to mirth, despair to hope, sadness to joy -- all sketched within simple stories -- and you have a prolific group of artists who are magnificently hitting their creative stride.

Securing Los Lobos was something of a coup for the Kentucky Center, and the band certainly didn't leave the Lonesome Pine audience wanting. Drawing heavily from Kiko, Hidalgo -- clearly the leader of the band -- led his mates through a nearly flawless two-hour set.

If there were any drawbacks, it is that the show might have been a bit restrained because of the intimate environs of the Bomhard.

Not that they didn't rock. It's just that hearing those guitars wail gave a hint of how great it would be to catch them at Louisville Gardens or a smoky Tijuana beer joint.

Oh well, such protests are trifling. The show was one of the best Louisville is ever likely to enjoy, and that's something to shout about.