Thursday, November 1, 2007
Concert Review: Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony
In a pitched battle between the reigning King and Queen of Latinos, who will come out on top?
Boricuas y Mexicanos in Dallas? Check. Clave and timbales? Check. Enough dance space for salsa? Well, unfortunately it was Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center where Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony had their Dallas performance debut, and there just isn't enough room for that kind of stuff.
The set on stage was the same for both performers. There were four rows of translucent risers that the band filled up had different colored lights pumping through them that gave the entire night a very soft but vibrant look with mostly reds, purples, and various shades of blue.
Marc Anthony first took the stage with a full ensemble that included congas, bongos, timbales, a full horn section, bass, and guitar. For my eyes and ears, which did not grow up listening to mambo or salsa, I was surprised that the tradition of band leaders is alive and well. In fact, it apparently never died. Anthony was all over the stage, keeping the audience entertained, all the while directing the band to either start or finish a song on his cue or even to bring up or turn down the volume at crucial moments.
Anthony began the show with the Hector Lavoe song, "Agualile." As most of you know, Anthony and Lopez just released a couple of months ago the film El Cantante, the biopic of Hector Lavoe's life. Let me say at this moment that this man, who is small in stature, has a voice so powerful and seductive, it is no surprise that every woman in the audience melted the second the opening note was sung. The band pumped out the salsa clave just like it would have been at the Tropicana in New York in the 1970's, and I desperately wanted to get up and dance, but alas, there wasn't enough room. For the English-only audience, Anthony did play his two his crossover hits from a couple of years ago, "You Sang To Me" and "I Need to Know." Both were good, but I have to admit that I was much more interested in the salsa numbers. He also played my favorite original song, "Tu Amor Me Hace Bien", and it was the spiced up version from his album Sigo Siendo Yo. Anthony finished with another number from Lavoe, "Mi Gente." I have heard many recordings of Lavoe and the La Fania All Stars doing "Mi Gente" and hearing tens of thousands singing the final response over and over again, “Aye, la, la, la, la, la, la!” while the band continues to play. Well, it was the same again with Anthony as the crowd erupted, myself included, singing with the band and clapping out the beats. It was quite amazing how intimate it felt. Other than there not being enough room to dance, my only real complaint was that the sound mix was way too bass heavy, not allowing for enough of the percussion and the horns to intermingle with Anthony's voice.
Visibly pregnant, Ms. Lopez took the stage just three minutes after her husband had left the stage. I have to say, I was completely amazed at how good she was. First off, I have never seen her live before as this is her first tour. I wasn't expecting too much from her since I have seen her perform at various award shows in the past and she usually performed those with a backing vocal and music track. There was none of that this evening. Her vocals were powerful and never pitchy. It must be Marc Anthony rubbing off on her. Secondly, I was surprised at the agility of a woman at her stage in her pregnancy. She held nothing back and her dancing was quite impressive. When she came out, she first performed her newly released single, "Doing It Well," which I have to say is not necessarily the type of music I listen to, but I could tell that it was a major step up from the usual that I have heard from her.
The other thing that shocked me, and in retrospect I guess it shouldn't have, was how charismatic she was. In between songs, she would banter with the audience, I surmised in order to catch her breath. She was particularly engaging and seemed very appreciative of the warm response from the crowd. She sang her hits, "Jenny From the Block," "If You had My Love," and "Let's Get Loud," which you could tell were not as well written as her new stuff. Another song that I recall from the new album she sang was a title called "Brave," which had a catchy hook that kept the audience moving. After "Let's Get Loud," she left the stage and then the sappy part came, which I bought all the way, when both Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez joined one another on stage. They closed out the show with two duets, "No Me Ames" and "Por Arriesgarnos."
It had been at least ten years since I had even thought about going to an arena show because I hate the lack of intimacy, not withstanding the usual astronomical price of the tickets. But these two performers, when put together, complemented one another so well that it felt like we were all just enjoying one another's company at a social, Boricua style.