Los Lobos played their final XRT show of a two-night stint Wednesday night in Downer’s Grove.
Where do you begin with such an immense night of world-class music? From the sophisticated venue of the Tivoli Theatre, (which had nearly every single one of it’s 1,012 seats filled), to the talent on stage itself, it was a one-of-a-kind live music experience.
Beverages were flowing and the popcorn was aplenty as the excited audience took their seats inside the Tivoli. Though those under the age of 30 were few and far between in the crowd, that did not stop the enthusiastic audience from having the time of their lives.
Speaking of youth, opening act Ryley Walker, may have been one of the youngest in the house. At the age of 27, the Chicago-based singer/songwriter has immense talent for both technical skill and vocal talent. As 7:30 p.m. rolled around, and Walker took the stage, he captivated the crowd’s attention, stating “Live music. It’s a s$*& business, but baby it’s our business!”
His set up, a modest four-piece. Ryley and his acoustic and/or electric guitar, joined by a second guitarist, a bass player, and a drummer. His set consisted of four immensely immersive and and transcendent songs, that well surpassed 5 minutes each. He started with the vocally captivating track, “The Roundabout,” which got the audience whistling and clapping in their seats.
The following three tracks featured his drummer playing a gong, unpredictable tempo switches, and surprising genre changes all within a single song. Songs were musically built up, adding layer upon layer, getting the entire crowd nodding their heads to the intense percussion and guitar jams they were experiencing. The swooping sound of Ryley Walker and his band left he audience in amazement, and that was just the beginning of the night.
As the lights went back up, people passed the time slow dancing in the isles, getting more drinks, or just simply chatting with fellow Los Lobos fans. But as soon as XRT’s Marty Lennartz hit the stage to introduce the L.A. natives they all came to see, cheers erupted.
The group, (minus lead singer David Hidalgo), took the stage and opened with “Why Do You Do.” Cheers, whistles, and fists in the air exploded from the crowd. César Rosas, planted stage right, took the lead with the vocals. Enrique “Bugs” Gonzalez was seated at his drum kit, all smiles. Keyboardist and sax-master Steve Berlin stood modestly on stage left, while bassist Conrad Lozano stood closest to what could be called center stage.
Next came the slightly slower Los Lobos track, “Wicked Rain.” Rosas’ guitar solos during not only this song, but the entire evening were nothing short of amazing, and made the feat seem effortless. During the song, they also brought on “friends” of the band, a conga player, Juan Carlos, as well as an accordion player Josh, both whom Rosas referred to by first name.
Popular and obscure Los Lobos tunes alike, like “Chuco’s Cumbia,””That Train Don’t Stop Here,””Yo Canto,””Evangeline,” and “Set Me Free (Rosa Lee)” all filled the set list. Each song awakening the audience more and more. Guitar, congas, and accordion solos brought the crowd to roaring cheers mid-song more than once, and clapping along, dancing in the side isles of the theatre and in seats, and standing ovations from many at the ends of songs became a given.
Los Lobos’ stage presence and infectious rhythms take most of the credit for getting fans up and dancing.
The evening slowed down a bit with the addition of Chicago musician, and friend of Los Lobos, Dave Herrero. Herrero, who told us he’s been a Los Lobos fan himself since the age of eight, has played with Los Lobos before, “They’re heroes, they’re total heroes to me in terms of what we do as musicians.”
Herrero got a text the day of the show from Steve Berlin to bring his guitar to the show “just in case.” We are all thankful he did, because what followed was magic. The group and Herrero played a Jimi Hendrix cover of “Hey Joe” with guitar solos that brought the audience to their feet in applause.
Herrero says Conrad Lozano wanted to play something Blues in C, so Herrero picked the BB King classic, “How Blue Can You Get” off the cuff. Dave’s bluesy vocal and guitar performance blew the crowd away, especially his lengthy guitar solos.
Herrero says he felt the love from the crowd during his time on stage, “I thought there was a lot of love in the room, especially since David was out, Cesár had to hold down a lot, but he did, and he sounded great.”
Dave went on to play along for a cover of Vicente Fernández’ “Volver Volver,” before leaving the stage.
Cesár dedicated a track sung entirely in Spanish to Donald Trump before bringing out Dave Alvin to play some of his songs with them. Alvin, who stepped in for an injured David Hidalgo, played three lengthy original songs with the group, “Fourth of July,” “Ashgrove,” and “Marie Marie.”
The intense drum playing from “Bugs” Gonzalez, and Alvin’s frantic guitar playing during “Fourth of July,” had the crowd thrashing their heads in their seats. Following the song, Alvin said to the crowd with a grin ear-to-ear “Los godd$*& Lobos. The greatest rock n’roll band in the world!” to which the crowd erupted in roaring applause. Following “Ashgrove” the crowd stood for another standing ovation.
The night ended, or so it seemed, with “Marie Marie.” The audience was moving in every way humans can; dancing, shimmying, twisting, shaking in the isles, clapping along, pure chaos in the seating area occurred whilst Dave Alvin thrashed on his guitar, split-legged. The crowd cheered and they said goodnight, as they left the audience staring at empty stage in awe.
Those who stuck around were rewarded with an encore mashup song of Los Lobos’ famous cover of “La Bamba,” and “Good Lovin'” by Young Rascals. The energy was at an all time high, when Rosas said, “Adios Amigos!” and for the last time, they exited the stage.
To say that those who passed on this two-night XRT event “missed out,” would be an understatement. The theatre was filled with nothing but smiles as concertgoers poured out of the historic Tivoli Theatre, and one can feel nothing but privileged to have experienced such a pure performance and display of rock n’roll.