Anyone who doesn’t understand why Los Lobos are often referred to as the quintessential American band -- instead of being subcategorized to Mexican American rockers – would have gotten the perfect crash course from a 20-minute stretch midway through their 80-minute set Sunday night at the Minnesota Zoo amphitheater for a crash course.
Starting with the infectiously bobbing “Cumbia Raza,” the East L.A. vets and zoo regulars effortlessly bounced from a traditional Mexican son song to a rocky Grateful Dead cover (“West L.A. Fadeaway”) to full-on blues (“My Baby’s Gone”) to a twanged-up, honky-tonk-worthy version of “Matter of Time” to the moody swamp bliss of “Kiko & the Lavender Moon.” It was a whirlwind musical tour, but for the sold-out crowd the diverse range probably didn’t even register. That sort of things happens all the time at a Los Lobos gig.
Introduced by zoo host Jackson Buck as “the greatest live band on the planet” – he was quoting zoo music promoter Sue McLean, who passed away in May -- the Lobos were once again paired with their kid-brotherly Texan cohorts Los Lonely Boys. The two bands’ familial interaction started halfway into the Lonely Boys’ opening set when Lobos sax man Steve Berlin came out to help funk up “Oye Mamacita” and blew through a few other tunes. Lobos singer/guitarist David Hidalgo soon followed for a loosely swinging, jazzy jam on “Friday Night.” As he did at the start of the set, Lonely Boys singer/guitarist Henry Garza made a dedication to McLean when his band lit into its hit “Heaven” for a finale. “She started this,” he said of the Minneapolis concert vet.
An emotional high point of the show, Hidalgo also sweetly dedicated “Matter of Time” to McLean (“I hope it's all it seems / Not another empty dream / There's a time for you and me / In a place living happily”). The incestuous jamming then continued, with Garza coming out to spike “I Got Loaded” with extra guitar work and staying through “La Bamba,” in which a few dozen female fans plus one (clueless) guy crashed the stage to dance along. That sort of thing also happens all the time at a Lobos gig, and it never gets old.