Los Lobos

Thursday, February 3; VooDoo Lounge in Harrah's Casino (777 Casino Center Drive, Maryland Heights)

Learned listeners often say that Los Lobos has all the attributes of a great bar band, so perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise to find the group booked into a local casino's watering hole. And although such rooms are usually perceived as the purview of oldies acts and others similarly removed from the commercial mainstream -- and not as places you'd see one of the most critically acclaimed American bands of the last quarter-century -- the idea of Los Lobos at Harrah's makes a weird kind of sense, because the band's career has been full of unexpected turns.

From its beginnings crossing over from playing at Mexican weddings to LA punk clubs, to its fluke-hit cover of "La Bamba" from the Ritchie Valens biopic, to its most recent series of challenging-yet-satisfying albums combining roots sensibilities with high-tech instruments and recording methods, Los Lobos has never done the obvious thing.

The band's sound is hard to pigeonhole -- a blend of blues, rock, soul, folk and Latino influences that mutates freely from album to album and even from track to track. And in an age of video-friendly performers, these are defiantly ordinary-looking men, a bunch of middle-aged guys who dress more like blue-collar Joes out for an after-work beer than pop stars (though guitarist-vocalist Cesar Rojas can rock a pair of shades with the best of them).

However, given that the group still has a major-label contract, serious clout with critics and a considerable fan base, one would assume that Los Lobos' interest in performing in a small, intimate venue stems from a desire to get back to barroom basics rather than from economic necessity. Regardless of the reason, this is a rare chance to see a legendary band still at the height of its powers, up close and personal.

Show at 9 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, $28 at the door; call Ticketmaster at 314-421-4400.

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