By Drew Olson Special to Published Sep 14, 2007 at 5:15 AM

There are no slot machines, blackjack tables or roulette wheels inside the Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Casino.

But, the people there Thursday night still felt pretty lucky.

The East L.A.-based band of musical veterans known as Los Lobos took the stage inside the intimate theater shortly after 8 p.m. and performed a blistering set that had fans -- including Milwaukee music icon and occasional OMC music contributor Paul Cebar -- dancing in the aisles.

After 35 years together and more than 20 years of regular visits to Milwaukee, Los Lobos doesn't present a lot of visual surprises.

The band -- guitarists Cesar Rosas, David Hidalgo and Louie Perez, bass player Conrad Lozano, drummer Cougar Estrada and saxophone specialist Steve Berlin -- dress in low-key, next-door-neighbor-in-the-backyard attire and keep movement to a minimum onstage.

But, that doesn't mean they can resist working up a sweat.

Perez, one of the more underrated lyricists in rock, gave up almost all his drumming duties years ago and now stands center stage between Rosas and Hidalgo, where he cuts an almost professorial figure with his glasses and augments the sound with an electric guitar and jarana, an eight-string guitar that adds to band's the trademark sound.

With a vast catalog that mixes blues, jazz, polka and garage rock with a distinctly Latin flavor, Los Lobos could probably stage a five-hour concert and still disappoint some fans with song omissions.

The selections on Thursday, which were only loosely based on the 17-song set list taped to the stage floor, included new songs like "The Town" and "Chucco's Cumbia" from the band's latest album "The Town and the City" as well as older chestnuts like "Don't Worry Baby" and the dreamy textures of "Kiko and the Lavender Moon."

After a soulful reading of "Luz De Mi Vida," Rosas' bilingual ode to his wife, Sandra, who was kidnapped and murdered by her brother eight years ago, the band really began to hit its stride with a version of "The Fat Man," by Fats Domino.

"No offense," a laughing Hidalgo said while introducing the song, which was recorded for a Fats Domino tribute CD that benefits the Tipitinas Foundation, which supports working musicians in New Orleans and funds Hurricane Katrina relief.

Midway through "The Fat Man," Rosas played a particularly juicy lead break and began grinning widely at Hidalgo, who smiled back. Moments like that show that even after thousands of shows, the band members still enjoy playing with and challenging each other.

For most of the night, it was the audience that was challenged - to sit still during numbers like "That Train Don't Stop Here," "Volver, Volver," a stirring cover of the Grateful Dead's "Bertha."

By the time the band ripped into set closers "La Bamba" and "Politiican," the aisles were full of dancers.

Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.