It might be hard for the uninitiated to understand the pairing of Enrique Iglesias (heir apparent to the Iglesias charm) and Cuban-American rapper Pitbull. However, given their working relationship, one that reaches back a few years with appearances on each other's albums, it begins to make sense. Perfect sense almost. With both artists representing two close but discernibly different epochs in Latin music, it makes perfect sense to marry Enrique's Spanish crooner/modern pop with Pitbull's street-savvy hip-hop/electro-retro as a vehicle to bridge that small gap.
The fan base and demographic is technically the same, and both performers are spirited and animated enough to satisfy the average concertgoer on their own -- as a combo, it's ultimately a frenetic whittling of international flavor into a three-hour showcase.
While similar in intent, Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull fully represented the sides of their assigned coins with veracity and gumption, leading a packed Hard Rock to ebb, flow, and sweat accordingly.
You know the Latinos are in the house if the generally über-punctual Hard Rock gets going well after the designated time. Clearly in anticipation of this cultural truism, this tour has had the aid of house DJ crew Jump Smokers warming up the crowd and serving as musical interlude between stage reconfigurations.
With a full band at the ready and a long runway at his disposal, Enrique Iglesias burst through the floor of the stage to get the show going with "I'm a Freak." From there, he took full control of the mostly female audience and held them in his hand through his rendition of "No Me Digas Que No," displaying the same level of skill and charisma that made his father a household name of international renown.
But while father and son might share from the same gene pool, familial nomenclature, and potential fan base, the two couldn't be more dissimilar in deliveries (and this writer has seen them both live). Enrique's rough-around-the-edges braggadocio allows him to get away with bawdry renditions of "Tonight (I'm Fuckin' You)" while seducing the audience into letting him borrow the car. It's weird, but he's chameleonic in his nice-guy douche-y-ness; and I mean that as a compliment. The man could sell snake oil for a living if it came down to it.
At this point, dear reader, it's imperative to know that during high school, some 20-odd years ago, I was the recipient of a wayward water balloon from the clumsy hands of the international sensation, a transgression that has largely quelled over time and an entertaining interview with his father back in 2012.
Never forgetting his Spanish roots (I don't know much of his catalog to comment on his Filipino side), at this point, the band and Enrique did for a nice quasi-tablao interlude that saw him reposition himself and some of the band toward the back of the Hard Rock, a move that would undoubtedly be part of his well-known up-close-and-personal connections with the crowd.
The curveball being that instead of pulling a young lady from the stands, Enrique invited an elderly gentleman onto the smaller stage with him. For this acoustic set, Enrique exchanged pleasantries and asked him questions. As it turns out, the lucky sexagenarian was named Mikhail, a Russian abuelo from New Jersey. A possible relative of his on-and-off longtime partner/wife Anna Kournikova? Coincidence or unholy alliance?
Proving that the Russians know their vodka and that Enrique should stick to peddling his Atlantico rum, Mikhail turned the one drink he was offered into a full pounding of the vodka bottle. Well played, sir.
I believe he followed that with a return to the main stage and a varied set list that was representative of a 20-year recording career. Other songs he performed were "Heart Attack," "Finally Found You," "Bailamos," and "Loco." And as if it needed querying, he sang through a version of "Hero" with the same spirit you'd imagine Pearl Jam would have if someone convinced them to perform "Jeremy" live. Enrique will be a crowd pleaser until the end, but just because he's pleasing the crowd that loves that song doesn't mean he has to "like it."
Get it? See what I did there? Ha!
After Jump Smokers did their in-between set, Pitbull -- the artist simultaneously known as Mr. 305 and Mr. Worldwide -- took the stage in the same manner that Enrique did, through the floor, in a white smoking jacket, black slacks, and aviator glasses (that were glued with industrial epoxy to his face), but not before the crowd was treated to a biographical slide show of the man's early life as a Cuban-American hustler from the streets of Miami.
While the ominous sound of the Scarface theme played along, it was hard to take this seriously. But with Pitbull's appeal, in part stemming from the cult of personality that he has designed for himself, it was the right amount of tongue-in-cheek cheekiness needed to get this portion of the show running at a fast gallop. Flanked by a small army of dancers in skimpy Pretty Woman-inspired outfits, Pitbull made plenty of use of the runway at his disposal, and it was hard to miss on the jumbo screens the dripping sweat he'd generated over the course of the opening salvo of "Don't Stop the Party," "International Love," and "Shut It Down."
Pitbull might not have the same amount of years on the road or on the recorded plane as his coheadliner, but his 13-odd years on the music-eating consciousness has shown him strike gold on numerous occasions through collaborations with other artists like Akon, Chris Brown, Marc Anthony, Steve Aoki, Jennifer Lopez, and Elvis Crespo, among many others. With this in mind and amid running adverts for his fragrance and Voli Vodka (maybe Mikhail would've enjoyed a second round of libations), Pitbull's set made ample use of the screens and backtracking as many of his known collaborations as well as digitized versions of himself appearing in movies and music videos played along.
Given his constant black-tie look, it was with a double take that the Pitbulls shown on the screens during vignettes of Men in Black III and Lil Jon's "Turn Down for What" were a surprise. This manner of interaction was also used for virtual duets on other tracks like "Get It Started" with Shakira. Crowd bangers "Bon, Bon" and the increasingly popular single off his upcoming Globalization LP, "Fireball," got roaring reactions.
You know you stop and point and say "fireball" whenever it comes to mind whether you know what it means or not, if it even means anything to begin with. Its surprisingly catchy hook is demonically impossible to expunge from one's mind. Am I the only one thinking about Pee-Wee's Big Adventure?
But because Pitbull, Mr. 305, Mr. Worldwide cannot possibly live under a rock regardless of his personality status, he's fully aware of how he appears to his detractors and in a full meta retort to the old saying "por más que el mono se vista de seda..." (No matter how much silk the monkey wears, a monkey he remains), Pitbull regaled the crowd with an anecdote of his homies questioning his predilections for the finer things in life. "Oye chico, why don't you make street music no more?" Pitbull reiterated the opening bio's admittance of an early, hustler's life and how he's broken the ghetto mentality that kept him at street level.
It's not an issue of ego whenever he mentions the "Mr. Worldwide" moniker at this point; it's almost like a subconscious reminder necessity. Oh well. After that, he proved that while he has shed layers of his past, he hasn't fully forgotten his roots with some riotous renditions of "Culo," "On the Floor," "Hotel Room," and "I Know You Want Me."
This tour, which has brought both men home, has the feel of two friends having a good time where egos don't need coddling and/or balancing -- these guys are extremely profitable and are freed from the pressures of monetizing their craft at this point; their work just makes money. The only thing that I found weird was the extreme ages represented in the crowd. While a middle-aged crowd can be expected for Enrique, who's been at it since the mid-'90s, there were many older and a considerable amount of young children.
And I mean young children. Given the risqué nature of some performances and the adult language of the music and banter, it was surprising to see so many young kids in the audience. Modern parenting, I guess.
Even though the Hard Rock was packed and placed in a trance by the performers, it's safe to assume that their appearance at the American Airlines Arena on Sunday night had ten times as cacophonous a response. But you'll have to check with our sister paper for that report.
Given the grandiosity of the two artists, it's important to note that emerging Colombian reggaeton/hip-hop star J Balvin is also featured on this tour, but his contributions are largely obscured by the headliners. However, it is nice to see them bringing a younger musician under their wings to experience the rigors of the international jet set. If their sense of altruistic charity continues, I'd like to point out that I have a valid U.S. passport and am willing to forgive Enrique's transgressions for a spot on the bus/plane.