Guitarist/vocalist David Hidalgo (usually writing with drummer/guitarist Louie Perez) represents the group's sincere, romantic, socially concerned side, while Cesar Rojas, the band's other guitarist and singer, plays the role of the swaggering rocker and gritty bluesman. It's been that way since the group was first starting out, one night playing acoustic versions of Mexican standards at weddings in its neighborhood; the next, performing on the same punk-rock club circuit that spawned its erstwhile labelmates X and the Blasters. And the duality has continued as the band has morphed from a relatively raw roots-music ensemble juggling rock, blues, soul, country and Chicano influences into an accomplished, mature group of musicians whose sonic experiments over the past decade have seemed closer to recent efforts by Radiohead or Wilco than to polkas from south of the border.
Conceived as a 30th anniversary celebration, Los Lobos' most recent album, The Ride, features an intriguing lineup of guest stars including Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, Richard Thompson, Bobby Womack, Mavis Staples, Rubén Blades and Little Willie G of the seminal Chicano rock band Thee Midnighters. But after playing literally thousands of gigs together, Los Lobos (which also includes bassist Conrad Lozano and saxophonist/keyboardist Steve Berlin) don't really need any outside help to deliver a sizzling live show. Look for Hidalgo to emote, Rojas to rock and a good time to be had by all.