Lobo live! Since I first heard about it from BJ and the notice on the web site, the anticipation had been building. It didn’t take Linda and I too long to decide we had to be there. Although we had seen Lobo perform solo in Boston in the early 90’s (neither Lobo nor I can remember the exact date), we knew this would be special.

We made our travel arrangements before we even had access to the tickets. Sammy from KYVA offered to reserve our seats (the first of many gracious acts he performed for us).

Finally, the big weekend arrived. We flew into Albuquerque Saturday night. We drove up to Santa Fe on Sunday. It was a beautiful, quaint city. We toured the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, ate lunch at a French café, and strolled through the many shops.

Valentine’s Day. We drove around Albuquerque, stopping at the botanical gardens and the aquarium. We could have done more, but I couldn’t wait any longer. We headed west toward Gallup, about a two-hour drive. We arrived shortly before 5:00 pm. We followed our map and soon found ourselves driving by the El Morro Theatre. The marquee said it all: “An Intimate Evening with Lobo.”

We parked nearby and walked back to the Theatre. It was a beautiful, old movie theatre and the smell of popcorn was evident as we walked in. Sammy was not there, so we strolled through the streets of downtown, and scoped out a restaurant for dinner. Back at the theatre, Sammy had still not arrived. I decided to take a look at the auditorium itself, and saw a couple of guys sitting comfortably near the front. Could it be? I walked down the aisle ahead of them to see their faces. Sure enough – Sam and BJ. We talked a little about old times, and they introduced me to Mike and his wife, who had traveled from Texas. They had run into Lobo at lunch and shared the story with us.

Lobo, Billy, and Sammy arrived a few minutes later. While Lobo and Billy started their sound check, Linda and I decided to have dinner. (I think Sam thought we were crazy to miss the opportunity.) We had a wonderful Valentine’s Day dinner in a restaurant that specialized in Italian and Mexican (only in New Mexico!).

We hurried back to the theatre. The first four rows had been cordoned off for “dignitaries” – sponsors, politicians, and radio station staff, and Sammy offered the out-of-town guests the opportunity to watch from there as well. (He didn’t have to ask twice.)

After a pleasing set of folk-rock by a local group, the time was finally approaching. (Sam asked for a concert review – I am sure he did not expect me to take so long to get to the actual concert!) After a series of introductions on the significance of the event, Lobo and Billy walked out with their guitars to an enthusiastic round of applause from the large crowd in attendance.

If there was any fear that Lobo would be “out of practice” or might have lost his voice, these fears were dispelled as he launched into the first verse of “Rings.” Originally a hit for Cimarron, and later a minor hit from Lobo’s Just a Singer LP, Lobo (ably backed by Billy) hit all the notes and the audience settled in for a memorable evening.

The marquee had promised an “intimate” evening with Lobo and that is what it turned out to be. Billy did not just serve as a guitarist and backup singer. His presence (and his wonderfully absurd sense of humor) seemed to relax Lobo and the audience. Between every song the two would banter about whatever came to mind. Some was insightful (Lobo was remarkably honest about songs of his that he “hated”), but the main element that came across were the camaraderie the two shared as they tried to amuse each other and the audience.

Early in the set, Lobo focused upon his hits (such as “Don’t Expect Me to Be Your Friend,” “Simple Man,” “It Sure Took a Long Time,” and “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo.”) At times, you could almost feel the audience thinking, “Wow! I didn’t remember that Lobo was the guy who sang all these hits.” A comic highlight also occurred when Lobo forgot the opening lines to “It Sure Took a Long Time.” No problem – this was an audience of Lobo fans, right? Unfortunately, this was an occasion when mass amnesia struck the audience, and it was up to Billy to finally pull up the lost lyric. (In truth, Lobo did forget a few lyrics here and there, but this only seemed to add to the fun and casual atmosphere.)

Mid-set, Lobo and Billy played a medley of songs by the the singer-songwriters who most inspired them most – Lennon and McCartney. They capably performed snippets of 6 Beatles tunes, including “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” and “In My Life,” but not “I’m Only Sleeping.”

Lobo and Bill then pulled out the stools and invited the audience to request some tunes. The audience did not necessarily get the concept of requesting some favorite Lobo songs from the various albums and Billy had to admonish them when they called out oddities, such as Styx songs – “We’re not in a bar, folks.” Eventually, a few good requests came out (such as “Stoney,” “A Big Red Kite,” and BJ’s favorite “Faithful” (quite appropriate for Valentine’s Day)). The biggest surprise was a request for “Peero Juan Valdez Sam Quixote,” which Lobo could not ever being requested, although it somehow seemed fitting for New Mexico. Lobo obligingly gave it his best shot, even getting most of the lyrics right.

It was now time to take the show into the home stretch. Lobo had saved a few big hits for the end, including “How Can I Tell Her?” and “I’d Love You to Want Me.”

The crowd went wild as the two left the stage, so they came back for some well-chosen encore tunes. Lobo explained how (although he is not of American Indian heritage) he imagined that his song “Running Deer” might resonate in an area with a strong Native American cultural presence. Again, based on audience reaction, it seemed he had struck a chord. Lobo and Billy then launched into “Asian Moon” (re-christened to “New Mexico Moon” for this occasion). The show ended with an appropriate farewell song – “Goodbye Is Just Another Word.”

In all, the show lasted nearly two full hours, and the audience, the radio station, and Lobo and Billy all seemed completely happy with the results. Of course, many of us in the audience were also wishing that this would inspire Lobo to schedule more dates in the near future. Although it would be difficult to top this event, it would sure be fun to try!