Too often throughout their Las Vegas performance history, Los Lobos have played the role of concert opener, warming up the crowd before the likes of The Eagles, Eric Clapton and Trey Anastasio. A support slot doesn’t provide much opportunity for a band with 46 years under its belt to stretch out and dig into its catalog. Fortunately for local fans of the East LA rock band, the next Vegas stopover—February 8 at the Golden Nugget—will feature Los Lobos and Los Lobos only, setting up a night sprinkled with gems beyond the requisite hits. Here are five more things to know heading into that show:
1. Los Lobos’ core has been together forever. Guitarist/vocalist David Hidalgo, guitarist/vocalist Louis Pérez (who began his career with the band as a drummer), guitarist/vocalist Cesar Rosas and bassist Conrad Lozano formed the group in 1973, and saxophonist Steve Berlin has been onboard since 1984. Only the band’s drum seat has seen significant turnover, with current skins man Enrique “Bugs” González joining the touring lineup in 2012. “I can’t remember a Saturday in 32 years that I haven’t seen the rest of the guys,” Perez told the Las Vegas Sun in 2005. “Our children all grew up together, and they consider themselves to be brothers and sisters.”
2. The band didn’t write its biggest hit. Ritchie Valens turned Mexican folk song “La Bamba” into a top-25 Billboard single, but Los Lobos’ 1987 version—recorded for use in that year’s Valens biopic of the same name—raced all the way to No. 1. Though the band doesn’t perform it every night, it ranks behind only 1984 cut “Don’t Worry Baby” for all-time live appearances, according to setlist.fm.
3. Los Lobos’ undisputed masterpiece turns 27 this year. There are many strong Los Lobos albums—1987’s By the Light of the Moon, 1996’s Colossal Head and 2010’s Tin Can Trust, to name a few—but there’s an easy starting point for new listeners: 1992’s Kiko. Over the course of 16 songs, the band cycles through (and blends together) the many styles and subgenres for which it has become known: Latin rock, Americana, folk, blues, country, psychedelia and beyond. Despite the sharp contrasts between tracks such as catchy opener “Dream in Blue,” the delicately acoustic “Saint Behind the Glass,” desert rocker “Short Side of Nothing” and twangy ballad “When the Circus Comes,” the project maintains a consistency of sound and focus that ranks it among the absolute best of any era.
4. The band remains creatively nimble. Though recent years have seen fewer releases—with just two proper studio albums since 2006—that work has remained interesting. Of 2015 LP Gates of Gold, allmusic.com wrote,“[It] shows they can contemplate the infinite and chart new paths while still sounding like no one but themselves, and they can do all of this with the force and agility they commanded when half their age,” while awarding it four stars out of five.
5. They’re legitimate Rock Hall contenders. Eligible since 2003, Los Lobos picked up momentum toward earning a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nod in 2015, earning their first-ever nomination. Though they were passed over—and left out of subsequently noms—a visit to the website notinhalloffame.com shows the band with an 85.8 percent public approval rating for induction, ahead of The Smiths, Motörhead and Nine Inch Nails.
LOS LOBOS February 8, 8 p.m., $69-$139. Golden Nugget Showroom, 702-385-7111.