in performance: los lonely boys

Los Lonely Boys. From left, Henry Garza, Ringo Garza and Jojo Garza.

The club shows that introduced Los Lonely Boys to Lexington some 15 years ago were exhibitions of bluesy, electric exuberance – three brothers out of San Angelo, Texas serving up hearty power trio guitar rock with the spirits of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan never far from view. What it perhaps lacked then in invention was compensated for with boundless performance vigor.

On Wednesday night, before a sold out crowd at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, the brothers Garza – guitarist Henry, six string bassist Jojo and drummer Ringo (seriously, that his name) – delivered a set that, if anything, packed an even greater sense of affirmation and energy. But the difference this time was how securely the trio had found its rock, blues and soul sea legs. This was a band fascinated with the possibilities of power trio voltage, its own Chicano heritage and the sheer joy of stage performance. Though brief (the show barely clocked past 70 minutes), it possessed a level of drive and freshness that, frankly, was a little unexpected.

The Garzas threw down their psychedelic cards before the crowd at the show’s onset by opening with a searing cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Born on the Bayou.” Henry Garza embraced the tune’s killer bayou guitar riff, but dragged it over to Texas terrain, making it more bluesy than swampy. Jojo Garza wisely avoided John Fogerty’s gutbucket vocal lead from the song’s original 1968 version, supplanting it instead with a rich, rootsy shout and an occasional cultural shift in the lyrics (“I can still hear my chihuahua barking”).

Henry and Jojo split lead vocal duties as the program tore through four consecutive tunes from the most recent Los Lonely Boys album, 2014’s “Revelation.” Here is where the band’s stylistic breadth came into play. “Don’t Walk Away” and “Blame It on Love” incorporated just enough of a pop flourish (especially within the percussive Latin strut of the latter) to make Los Lonely Boys sound vastly more orchestrated than a conventional power trio. Ditto for the funk accents, especially in Jojo’s bass work, that fueled “Give a Little More” and the lighter paced, conga-flavored groove of “So Sensual.”

But there was still ample guitar fire from Henry to keep the show moving at a solid, rocking pace, from the intriguing Santana-like coda to “I Never Met a Woman” to the bass and drum-led jam that ignited a giddy cover of the Steve Winwood staple “I’m a Man.”

The evening concluded with the band’s breakthrough 2004 hit “Heaven.” Here, 15 year old Ringo Garza Jr (the drummer’s son) joined in, playing guitar confidently with his dad and uncles, adding to a pop-soul vibe already inherent in the tune.

It was a telling moment, as the three elder Garzas got their professional start decades earlier under the tutelage of their father. Sewing a family thread into music that has grown richer over time enforced the only false aspect of Los Lonely Boys – its name. The communal spirit revealed last night was way too fun and inviting for anyone at the Lyric to feel like they were even remotely alone.



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