The Fillmore Miami Beach at The Jackie Gleason Theater
October 10, 2007
The words Fillmore and Ricky Martin somehow just didn't seem to go together. Ricky Martin opening the Fillmore Miami Beach, the namesake of the Fillmore San Francisco where Jerry Garcia, Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin rocked the house in the '60s?
But Martin, Latin crossover star and king of Miami Beach, ended up being a suitable choice to christen the reborn Jackie Gleason Theater. There was the excitement of an opening night, with ushers wearing blue Fillmore shirts with peace signs on their backs and uniformly trained to say "Welcome to the Fillmore" each time they encountered you. There was also the opening night jitters when fans grew restless after the 8 o'clock curtain time ticked away. Technical problems of putting a show that usually plays in 25,000 seat venues plagued the crew, who was trying to cram the sophisticated stage show into the Fillmore's 2,500 seat intimate room. Throbbing house music kept the fidgety entertained as did some club regulars who took it upon themselves to entertain the audience by dancing in the aisles.
Finally at 9 p.m. the ad hoc dancers gave way to the real thing as the auditorium went black and a large ceiling-to-floor video appeared of Martin, trapped underwater, writhing naked in yoga positions. The high-pitched screams drowned out the music and it was then that it was like being at the Fillmore, hearkening days when females screamed, cried then fainted for acts like The Beatles. There was no fainting, not that we know of, but there were a few tears shed at the site of the chiseled former boy-band star, here in the flesh on the intimate stage of the new Fillmore.
No doubt about it. Martin gives fans what they want. Eight dancers and an 11-piece band pumped up the already frenzied group with a percolated percussive mix for the high-energy opening number. The stage setting gave Martin a showcase to swivel his hips a la Elvis as two conveyor belts on either side carried him from back to front. Frequent costume changes mostly resulted in tight-fitting tank tops, which accentuated Martin's buff body and circular arm tattoos.
The 90-minute set switched off between Spanish and English. There were Spanish ballads. "Fuego de Noche, Nieve de Dia," from the Latin Grammy-nominated MTV Unplugged CD, was given a living room feel with Martin barefoot in white t-shirt and jeans with only a pianist as accompaniment. "Vuelve" had the crowd singing in tandem. And ballads sung in English included a stirring and heartfelt performance of "She's All I Ever Need" and showed that he really does have the pipes to pull off a song that requires vocal versatility. At one point, Martin lifted up his white T-shirt to wipe his brow and expose his six-pack abs. The crowd screamed, even though the ad-libbed moment was most likely choreographed.
The real choreography was jaw dropping. Upbeat tunes showcased talented dancers, who doubled as gymnasts, doing flips, climbing the steel girders of the stage set and giving the star support to spotlight his dance moves. A harem of girls and shirtless boys worked the Indian theme of "I Don't Care," the influence most likely coming from Martin's travels to India where the known humanitarian recently opened an orphanage. At one point in the show, he used the forum to spread his message of saving the children of the world, singing a ballad to a huge slideshow of photographs. "Some taken with my own camera," he said.
All the seriousness was dashed by Martin playing hard-core rocker wearing a black outfit with white tie and sunglasses and his band rocking out with flying V guitars in "Revolucion." Difficult as it is to believe, one of the highlights of the night was the ramped up club version of "Livin' La Vida Loca." Martin was brought back for two encores. At one point, someone tossed him a purple rose from the audience. He caught it and held it while singing a Spanish ballad. Not your typical Fillmore moment, but a perfect close to a moon over Miami Beach opening night. – Michelle F. Solomon
Personal Bias: Men and women both love Ricky, so it's probably good for his p.r. that his sexuality remains a tightly-kept secret. Let the boys and girls swoon.
Random Detail: There's already a poster commemorating Martin's three-night stint at the new Fillmore. Look for it among the other framed icons just near the escalator on the way down to your right.
By The Way: Ricky Martin will receive his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame during a ceremony on Tuesday, Oct. 16. He plays two more nights at the Fillmore.