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Los Lonely Boys, Toots and the Maytals

AVA at Casino Del Sol, Sunday, Aug. 19

Full disclosure: Up until the day of this show, I had never listened to a Los Lonely Boys CD. While I'm sure I've heard them on the radio, I could not tell you what I'd heard or when I'd heard it.

What I can say is how much I have heard of them--and that their last show at AVA signaled their arrival as one of the next big things.

I prepared by listening to Sacred, the hugely successful follow-up to their self-titled debut and whose songs made up a good chunk of the show. Comparisons with Los Lobos were inevitable.

From the opening chords of their hour-and-45-minute set however, one thing was clear: Los Lobos, they are not. What they are is a damn fine power trio, subject to all the laws of physics that govern such things, like virtuosity, volume and the occasional tendency to overplay--all of which were on ample display.

Each Garza brother showed just how strong he was. Using mostly one guitar, Henry was all over with lots of wah-wah ("Oye Mamacita"), Stevie Ray blues licks ("Crazy Dream," "Diamonds") and the requisite Santana, in addition to his own freakish fury.

On the six-string bass, JoJo Garza was equally formidable. He and Henry would often play off each other, and you could tell how much fun this has been for them for all these years. Toward the end of the night, JoJo was actually playing chords on the bass, and his drum duo with brother Ringo was an unexpected highlight. And they're all great harmony singers--a recording trait that's translated well to the stage.

Midset, they also broke out their dad Enrique, for whom they used to serve as a backup band. It was hard not to think what a great dad he must be to let his oldest kid wail on the electric while he was trying to sing. For the encore, they soared through their biggest hit, the one that is like Los Lobos ("Heaven").

Opening the show was Toots and the Maytals. Although not playing to his crowd, Toots--a reggae pioneer whose soulful voice can still elicit memories of Otis Redding--was undeterred. Unfortunately, by the time his 45-minute set was over, he was just getting started.

More by Jim Lipson

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