In a way, it's hard to justify the release of Los Lonely Boys' recent live album. The disc, recorded at San Francisco's legendary Fillmore, comes on the heels of the band's self-titled 2003 debut effort, and basically recapitulates the glories of that surprise hit. Most bands wait until they develop an actual catalog before milking it with the obligatory and pointless live album.
But there is a certain logic to this seemingly premature move. Los Lonely Boys are the classic case of an act whose virtues don't readily translate to vinyl, a group that built a fan base with old-fashioned retail politics, reaching people one gig at a time.
Their self-described "Texican rock 'n' roll" is essentially a more conservative, less artsy variation on the Los Lobos model, and on record the group's songs are revealed to be bland and formulaic. In performance, however, the group's natural showmanship covers some of these failings.
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For instance, the studio version of "More Than Love" hardly makes an impression, but when the Garza Brothers give it the a cappella treatment on Live At The Fillmore, they become the inheritors of a harmony tradition that encompasses everything from singing siblings such as the Everly Brothers to street-corner doo-wop. When they tackle the bluesy shuffle of "Crazy Dream," LLB feel like successors to Stevie Ray Vaughan. And when they incorporate a piece of War's "Low Rider" into "Man To Beat" or rip into "La Bamba," they stake their place in the underestimated pantheon of Chicano rock. In other words, live performance conveys the scope of what they do, and it's their scope that compensates for a lack of originality. •