Los Tigres del Norte Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino Friday, August 3, 2012
With a career that's spanned four decades, immensely popular norteño group Los Tigres del Norte has plenty of practice making Grammy-award winning music. So when I say last night's show was riveting, electric, compelling, or any other positive adjective I've ever used to describe a concert, it should come as no surprise. But for the sold-out crowd that filled the Ovations Live Showroom at Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino it was more than any one word can surmise. It wasn't a vanity concert that groups like Los Tigres are often afforded after reaching certain heights: it was a fan's show.
Comprised of Mexican-American brothers Jorge, Hernan, Eduardo, Luis Hernandez, and cousin Oscar Lara, the quintet ran through their expansive inventory of hits while indulging every fan that approached the low-sitting stage for a handshake, photo op or handwritten song request.
After a brief introduction from a Radio Campesina personality, the show started with a short video covering some of the groups highlights over the years, including clips from last year's MTV Unplugged live album that featured collaborations with musicians such as Zach de la Rocha, Juanes, and Paulina Rubio. And when the curtain dropped to reveal the Jefes de Jefes, or Boss of Bosses as they're often called, concertgoers went absolutely wild.
They burned through their signature storytelling corridos, accordion-infused ballads and cumbias, opening first with "El Carro Rojo," "La Mesa Del Rincon," and "El Jefe de Jefes." Every brother shares duties on vocals either as back up or lead on certain songs. Jorge is the frontman, lead vocalist, and full-time accordionist, responsible for delivering a powerful baritone. Hernan is known for his signature salt and pepper coif, rocking electric bass slaps, and more nasally vox contributions. Eduardo is the multi-instrumentalist alternating between the accordion, sax, and guitar. He and full-time guitarist Luis took care of the more falsetto pitches.
Lara was barely visible over his drum kit, but he and fellow percussionist Mike Ramirez kept the foot tapping pace through the night.
While every song was virtually a fan favorite, the first huge crowd response of the night came with the first notes of, "Ni Parientes Somos." The audience let out a great cheer and either hollered from their seats or got up to dance.
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Throughout the evening people would walk up to the stage with small folded up pieces of paper and would hand them to the nearest brother as they paraded around the stage. Each one contained special dedications or requests that Jorge would read out loud between tracks with auctioneer speed. Some would walk up with red roses while other fans flailed their arms frantically in their faces. (Ladies front and center, I'm talking to you. I get it, the band came to play just for you, but if you keep trying to grab his hand he can't use it to play his instrument. So stop it. It's distracting.)
While I found some of the more overzealous fans quite annoying, it didn't seem to bother any of the "Northern Tigers." As the hits kept rolling out, and the crowd kept cheering, some tracks resonated a little deeper than others. Although written in the '70s and '80s, songs like "Contrabando y Traición" and "Jaula de Oro" seemed more relevant than ever. The 1984 release, "Jaula de Oro," or "Golden Cage" documents a plight of an undocumented man who swims across the border in search of work. Yearning to go home, he tells his son that he wants to take his family back to Mexico, to which the son (or Luis in this case) replies in English; "Watchoo talkin' about dad? I don't want to go back to Mexico. No way, dad."
"Contrabando y Traición" is a 1972 narcocorrido, or drug ballad, that talks about smuggling weed into the states. Unlike narcocorridistas of the day that seemingly glorify the drug war with videos clad with shootouts, bullet proof vests and assault rifles, Los Tigres' stories read more like folk tales that document the reality shared by many Mexicans. However that didn't stop them being banned in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua earlier this year.
Controversy be damned, the crowd sang loudly just the same.
Before we knew it almost two hours had passed and the group took a final bow after playing "América." They lingered on stage for a while longer signing autographs and posing for more pictures. That kind of humility goes a long way.
Last Night: Los Tigres del Norte at Wild Horse Pass
The Crowd:A mix of well-dressed middle-aged ladies and gentlemen.
Overheard in the crowd: Aah, they're going to play all of my favorite songs.
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Random Notebook Dump: I had to hide my notebook after a while because people kept coming up to me for paper so they could put in their requests to the band.
More pictures and video from last night's show on the next page.