Audio Mixers: Mark Johnson ; Andy Smith.
Recording information: House Of Blues, San Diego (02/24/2006).
Directors: Mark Johnson ; Lawrence Shapiro.
Photographer: Andrew Covell.
Los Lobos' 1992 album Kiko was a remarkable step forward for a band that was already considered one of the best roots rock acts in America; while Kiko was an outstanding set of songs from a group of gifted and perceptive musicians, it also found Los Lobos working with a producer who encouraged them to explore the possibilities of the recording process in a fresh new way, and the album's sonics were a very large part of what made it so striking. So an album in which Los Lobos play Kiko's 16 songs on-stage in front of a live audience must contend with the fact the studio craft that played a significant role in making Kiko so memorable is simply not going to be part of the package. Thankfully, while many acts who re-create their albums live go to great lengths to mimic the studio creation as closely as possible, Los Lobos are smart enough to know Kiko Live isn't going to be the same animal as the original album, and on these recordings, they subtly reshape the songs and their arrangements to better suit a live performance. Los Lobos have no trouble making this concert (recorded in San Diego in 2006) sound as tight and well-focused as the original studio recordings, but for this concert, they found new shapes and textures in the dynamics of these songs that are simpler but still effective; here "Peace" builds from a quiet opening to a roaring finale, "Just a Man" is leaner and bluesier, "Rio de Tenampa" is less chaotic and more graceful in its waltz-time drift, and the interplay between the percussion loops and the musicians on "Angels with Dirty Faces" is more organic and adds to the song's musical and lyrical tension. Also, the musicians approach the songs with an extra dose of sweat and passion, exchanging the cool surfaces of the studio sessions with the fire of a top-notch live band in full flight. And Kiko Live also gives David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas plenty of extra room to stretch out on their guitars, and while more soloing might not have made the original album better, the extended jamming on these versions of "Wicked Rain" and "That Train Don't Stop Here" is well worth hearing. Kiko Live won't (and shouldn't) take the place of the classic 1992 studio album, but it shows Los Lobos take a more intelligent approach to the gambit of playing a classic album on-stage than most bands, and the more streamlined interpretations are a reminder that a set of great songs played well by a fine band is the heart of what makes most albums great, even more than a cool drum sound. ~ Mark Deming