Enrique Iglesias And Pitbull At Madison Square Garden, Friday, June 30th, 2017, Reviewed
Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull may well be Latin American, but they ain’t Puerto Rican and they ain’t South American, and while Pitbull nods to his Cuban roots, Friday night’s performance at Madison Square Garden was modern day Spanglish, it was where Latins get assimilated in a rush of pop songs and beats. But it isn’t quite that either. For Latin pop superstar (last year he sold out Yankee stadium twice in minutes) Romeo Santos, bachata is the sound of choice, for heavy beats and Latin pop it is reggaeton. A viewing from last year of Daddy Yankee at the same venue, showed the difference between true Latin American beats and these variants – Daddy Yankee and Don Omar are aggressive the way mid-90s Jay-Z was, a shove it in your face intensity that springs at you. I love Pitbull, I like Iglesias, but neither of them are quite light footed enough.
Still they are both energetic enough, especially Iglesias. Iglesias is second generation Latin American pop, his father, the extremely estimable Julio Iglesias, all but invented Latin crossover. Julio with his matinee idol good looks, smooth as silk vocals and intense sexuality, built the foundations that the son now uses. And Enrique, who I’ve seen live many many times, is better now than he was ten years ago. At forty-two years of age, he has the energy of a man half his age. While, sure, he sings along to pre-taped vocals, so did Bono at MetLife on Wednesday. And unlike Bono, during his too short 75 minutes Enrique never stopped, never phoned it in, no change of pace hold on for a song while I re-group: he went from hardcore tracks (but no rap) to telenovelas in miniature sex, culminating with a crowd pleasing singalong to “Hero”. Iglesias had, thankfully, dumped “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by the time we saw him, but made up for it with a mix of hits in both Spanish and English, and a sexually aggressive persona that pleased the ladies no end.
The two friends have been switching openers every night and we got Pitbull for headliner and he didn’t get on stage to 1015pm. That’s ridiculously late and it makes the third time in three concerts that a very long break has hurt my pleasure in a show. Pitbull is king of the featured artist banger and he brought the hits out in style on Friday night. Here the question of what is live and what is taped on such a closely synced and choreographed performance is more or less totally irrelevant. What isn’t irrelevant is Pitbull’s eight, scantily clad women dancers who managed to offend both my niece and her daughter’s teenage companion. I saw no harm in them myself though I did find that they distracted from Pitbull’s skills as a rapper, essentially shortchanged all night long, and his skill as a single artist. The single artist in 2017 is precisely where the money is and Pitbull used to be able to climb the charts whenever he felt like it and now not since 2012 -fortunately his catalog will carry him for the rest of his career. “Hotel Room Service,” “International Love” and “Timber” point to all places in his chart topping reign. “Hotel Room Service,” his 2009 breakthrough, is precisely the same salsa beats, rap speak, sex freakiness as anything from Global Warming. But the hits have stopped coming, this year he released three singles and not one charted.
This didn’t affect Pitbull’s self-image whatsoever, the bullet headed pugnacious man looks like many things but a sex symbol isn’t one of them, yet he thinks he is one, and that is enough. His speechifying (music connects us all… oh, OK) is a snooze and his “make some noise” is beyond cliched, but here and there he gets through. Before his song off Fast And Furious 8, he mentioned that when he went to Cuba to film there for the movie, they built schools and hospitals. Then he did “Hey Mama” which is catchy without being very good, a smart hook is not a song. The track stiffed and none of it much bothers him. He performed it the same way he performs every thing, with full on electrical star power.