Sunday, December 8, 2013


What a band.  Celebrating 40 years (the first decade in obscurity in east L.A.), the group runs through a career and genre-spanning set that highlights their Mexicali start, their emergence into a roots-rock group, and their further exploration into intricate, challenging sound exploration.  That they can do this in one set and still keep everyone interesting is, I suspect, the reason they've been around so long.  Plus, they still do La Bamba justice, and have never been pigeon-holed by that lone commercial breakthrough.

They start off with The Neighbourhood, a ghetto snapshot which sets the right tone; this band has never left its roots, and still draws its best inspiration from the streets.  Multiple percussion layers and sharp acoustic guitar punch through, plus there's the great sound of Steve Berlin's sax.  Mexican music is still prominent in their sets, the well they return to, the rhythms they incorporate into everything else they do.  There are a couple of great Hidalgo and Perez soul-touching numbers, Tears Of God and Little Things, sensitive songs run through with hurt.  It's that balance of the emotional lyrics with the celebratory rhythms that provides the ebb and flow to the set.  By the end of it, a one-two punch of their own favourite, Set Me Free (Rosa Lee) and a La Bamba/Good Lovin' medley, the party wins out, as it should.  Great sound too on this, an all-around gem of a live album.

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