Last night I saw Los Lobos at Memorial Hall, a gorgeous, recently refurbished, century-old, 550-seat performance theater in Cincinnati.

My view from the nosebleeds. Not too shabby.

Technically I saw 3/5th of Los Lobos. Bassist Conrad Lozano and saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Steve Berlin didn’t make the trip, which was a letdown. But Cesar Rosas, Louie Perez and David Hidalgo were present and accounted for, along with a rhythm section.

L to R up front: Cesar Rosas, Louie Perez and David Hidalgo

I’ve seen Los Lobos many times, and always love the show they put on. Was last night’s the best ever? No. They weren’t at full strength and they are starting to show their age (aren’t we all?). But it was better by far than most bands half their age could do. They’ve been doing their thing – their unique, like-nobody-else-can-do-it thing – for more than 40 years now. And they still bring it strong every time. It’s Tex-Mex, it’s traditional Spanish, it’s bluesy, it’s soulful, it’s country, it’s rock and roll, it’s… everything but the kitchen sink. And it all sounds great.

David Hidalgo is easily one of the most underappreciated lead guitarists of this or any generation. I’d stack him up against Page, Clapton, Van Halen, Slash, you name it. Dude can shred. Yet when you look at some listicle of “the top 20 guitarists of all time” he’s never on there. And he has a gorgeous voice to boot.

Actually it isn’t just David who is underappreciated, it’s the entire band. Note to our friendly rival city at the northern end of my state: you can go ahead and shut the doors to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, because if Los Lobos isn’t in it, it isn’t worth a tinker’s damn. In 2015, the L.A. Times wrote a nice article that makes a strong case for Los Lobos, please check it out. Below are three of the videos from the article, I think they showcase the depth and breadth of their brilliance. They really aren’t “Just Another Band From East L.A.” as they self-deprecatingly called a 1993 compilation album. They are an American institution.