When the announcement of Friday's show pairing Alejandro Escovedo and Los Lobos' David Hidalgo first crossed my radar, I had to rub my eyes and look twice to make sure I wasn't dreaming.
Neither man is a stranger to Utah. Escovedo, the rootsy rock-and-roll Zelig, and Hidalgo, the affable musical mastermind of Los Lobos, both visit Salt Lake City and its surrounding towns almost annually on their various tours, Escovedo with his scorching Sensitive Boys, and Hidalgo with his long-time partners from East L.A.
This show, though, is different. It's being billed as an "evening of songs and stories," just Escovedo and Hidalgo on stage, swapping tales and playing and singing some of their own--and each other's--songs. I've never seen Los Lobos and Escovedo tour together, and the idea of these two joining up for a night of music inspired me to track down Escovedo and find out how this show--one of only two the pair is doing, the other being Santa Fe--managed to land in Salt Lake City.
"Well, you DO have the Red Iguana," Escovedo joked, before delving into his past work with Hidalgo. "We have a history, and it goes way back to the True Believers (one of Escovedo's '80s-era roots-rock bands) and Los Lobos. We toured together a bunch back around when they put out How Will The Wolf Survive?"
Escovedo is an inspired songwriter, and a consummate rock 'n' roll frontman when he plays with his ace band the Senstive Boys. Hidalgo is a scorching guitar player and musical savant who often gets called by the likes of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits to deliver some guitar or accordion flourishes to their work. Escovedo's natural charisma and Hidalgo's incredible dedication to serving the song whether out front or playing in back of the stage, should make this one memorable show.
Escovedo remembers seeing Los Lobos for the first time in his Austin hometown, and quickly realizing that Hidalgo was "an incredible musician and singer. I just hope I can keep up with him."
There's little doubt Escovedo will do just that. He's an incredible live performer himself, and his incisive narratives have made a big fan out of none other than Bruce Springsteen, who has recruited Escovedo to open tours and collaborate on stage more than once.
Escovedo said he and Hidalgo are figuring out six or seven songs from each man's catalog--a process he figures will be easier for Hidalgo than himself. "He can play anything," Escovedo said. "I'll have to do a little more homework, find out what I can do for his songs. Maybe sing a little." The set will delve deeply into the duo's combined century of pioneering American music; Escovedo noted that he'll play songs from some of his critically hailed '90s albums like The Boxing Mirror that he hasn't played in a while, since he typically plays newer material on tours, and he's been consistently putting out new music since a battle with hepatitis sidelined him for a few years. Just this year, Escovedo put out another excellent rock record, Big Station.
While Hidalgo often does all-acoustic shows with Los Lobos or his many side projects, Escovedo has shied away from doing shows without his full band, solo-acoustic-style. But that is changing, he said.
"I'm getting to the point where I want to do more of that," Escovedo said. "I always felt like a limited guitar player. I don't feel so much that way anymore."
AN EVENING WITH ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO & DAVID HIDALGO: SONGS AND STORIES FROM EAST L.A. TO AUSTIN, THE STATE ROOM, Friday, Dec. 7, 8 p.m., $35