Monday, July 7, 2003

When the Circus Comes to Town

A couple weeks back I revealed to the world (or as much of it as the Cheapo newsletter covers) that I've had the pleasure of adopting a piano playin' kitty. In an effort to dissuade Diego-San, the black four legged one, from swatting things off the top of my piano I decided to leave the keyboard cover in the upright position. I figured once he plunked himself on the keys and noise rang out he would run. But he didn't. He calmly kept strolling back and forth sounding a bit like the way Cecil Taylor plays.

So instead of giving the young feline lad a stern lecture I instead showed my increasing throw my hands up in the air method of training cats and decided I would encourage Diego's musicianship. I even considered putting some catnip on top of the piano to entice him to hop on up more often than he has but decided against that.

Some day the two of us may hone our act enough to hit the club scene but until then our only audience is Thompson (the grey tabby three-legged one). From the darting concerned look in Thompson's expressive eyes I know we haven't completely won him over. Go figure- Diego already plays piano much better than I do guitar.

All this is a long introduction to the fact I just got back from Los Lobos' performance at the Minnesota Zoo. And if the caged animals weren't exactly bouncing around from the swell music, then certainly it must be reported that the crowd was.

Los Lobos should be known as America's band because of their incredible versatility displayed in their sound, in their songs, in their songwriting, and in their ability to play in a variety of styles and colors. After opening the show with one of their traditional Mexican songs sung in Spanish they ripped into a most impressive, and speedy version of "Good Morning Aztlan." To say they nailed it would be an understatement. The guitars soared in a goose bump raising, air guitar inspiring, fashion. They jammed and they jammed hard.

Another early highlight was a concert staple, "Will the Wolf Survive?" As they were for most of the night, David Hidalgo's lead vocals were focused and right on the mark. I kept thinking about a certain someone, an inspired and inspirational Asthmatic skater who loves to spend as much time in Mexico as she can, who has learned as much Spanish as she can, who has confessed to wanting, dreaming, and picturing a day where she can live on the beaches of our neighbors to the south. In recent days I shared with her as much of Los Lobos' music as I have in my tiny little CD collection and it has left and etched picture in my mind- the combination of her and the beauty of the music. Go figure.

The highlight of the concert (for me at least although the increased activity of the crowd of dancers might have suggested I wasn't entirely alone) was an extended "That Train Don't Stop Here" from the group's must have CD, Kiko. Delayed for a time as the group discussed something, the opening was far too sloppy as Hidalgo was clearly unhappy with his guitar- the sound, the feel, the amplification- something. Cesar Rosas, behind his trademark shades and black T-shirt, sang the first verse fine and dandy "Looking out my window/I see my world has changed/The sun won't rise this mornin'/'Cause my baby's gone away..." But the expected Hidalgo guitar riffed answer was hesitant at best. That's when all things thankfully broke loose.

The band hit a groove that ran the gamut of rhythm and blues to straight (and painful) blues, from jazz to hard rock, from whatever it is that can be defined as a Mexican-American sound to near silence. It seemed like it was going to come apart at the seams and maybe it did, as the insides of a most terrific song oozed out and drifted out over the zoo. It was a great performance and one I felt lucky to hear (along with the wolves and monkeys and cats and such).

Closing out their one encore with the Who's "My Generation" seemed apt for the evening. After starting to get used(?) to going to shows where many in the crowd are younger than I this was definitely an older looking bunch. The cover was wonderful and the sentiment of hoping to die before one gets old played well amongst those who have grown up with that idea. Again it was yet another sign that this band by its very roots understands quite deeply the state of where this country 's thoughts are these days.

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