by Linda Ray
Modestly populated for opener Maria del Pilar, the Plush music room filled with fans as Lopez took the stage. He brought a crowd with him onstage, too, for fully fleshed out renderings of new material and some songs we last heard solo-gypsy style at the Casa Maria Thanksgiving benefit at Club Congress.
Mona Chambers' cello, Vicki Brown's violin, Efrén Cruz Chávez' percussion and Connor Gallagher's tasteful flourishes of pedal steel and electric guitar gave each song its own palette over the solid but versatile core provided by bassist Geoff Hidalgo and drummer Jack Sterbis. Lopez' soft-loud dynamics and falsetto croons soared over all, with maturity that would have been hard to imagine in 2008 when his nouveau-prog Mostly Bears came in second in the TAMMIES. (Whatever happened to The Wyatts, anyway?)
Lopez had set himself a high bar by inviting Los Angeles songstress del Pilar to open for him at Plush on Saturday. Singing original ballads in a range of tempos, alternately in English and Spanish, she dazzled the crowd with a burnished-copper voice and dance moves to die for. An incidental fashion statement could have told her story: a zippered, angular assymetrical number in silvery gray it kicked artfully in unexpected ways.