Miami’s two most famous musical sons had a homecoming party Sunday night, as Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias celebrated music, success, sex, dancing and their hometown at a sold out AmericanAirlines Arena.
The duo’s tour has been filling venues around the United States, but they had a special appeal and message here at home. “I owe everything to this town,” Iglesias told the adoring crowd, while Pitbull proclaimed “thank God for this beautiful city that’s given me the mentality to get over.”
This generation’s Cuban-American pop music hero spent almost as much time talking as he did rapping and singing, like some kind of beat-driven motivational speaker at the world’s biggest club. His set started with an on-screen bio recounting his rise to from Little Havana to international star. “Mr. 305 has graduated to Mr. Worldwide Pitbull is truly living the American dream,” it read. The crowd roared at flashing images of the Freedom Tower, yachts and bikinied girls, as Pitbull emerged onstage to the boom of Don’t Stop the Party, surrounded by a phalanx of booty-shaking dancers, shouting “who has the keys to the world now!”
He kept up that triumphant paean to the power of working hard and partying harder on the way to having it all. The Miami crowd may have been roaring with shared pride at lines like “We know what it is to hustle, to have nothing and create something.” But Pitbull wouldn’t be the star that he is if his banging capitalist fantasy didn’t translate everywhere.
Wearing a white dinner jacket (soon shed) over black shirt and pants, accompanied by two drummers, a DJ, synthesizer and bass players, Pitbull wove samples from other artists – Marc Anthony’s Vivir Mi Vida, Salt n’ Pepa’s 80’s hit Push It, Run DMC and Aerosmith’s Walk This Way – with abbreviated versions of his own songs, like Get It Started, with Shakira, or On The Floor, his World Cup song with Jennifer Lopez, with both stars flashing on screen. He launched Fireball by leading the crowd in a roaring chant of “the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire!” from Parliament Funkadelic. Only occasionally, as in Culo (with an overwhelming screen collage of shaking female behinds, for Pitbull far more crucial than faces) or Timber, did he perform an entire song. His set was like that of a club DJ who plays just a minute or two of each song, in a series of beat-driven high points, with Pitbull the sweat-soaked, power driving center.
Enrique Iglesias, by contrast, gave a much more relaxed performance, in a set that was like a trimmed down, focused version of a classic pop concert. Wearing jeans, t-shirt and baseball cap, looking as boyish and lean as ever, Iglesias was playful and effortlessly confident, eliciting a warmer, more personal kind of adoration. He leapt and darted around the stage, climbed down to reach into hysterical clumps of women. Backed by two guitarists, a bassist, drummer, percussionist, two synthesizer players and a female singer, he started with dance pop amped up with buzzy bursts of rock guitar, his voice heavily processed for I’m a Freak and Heart Attack from his latest album, Sex and Love, and Bailamos, his first crossover hit. Later he made Tonight (I’m F***ing You) simultaneously longing, funny and lustful.
For a short acoustic set on a small platform in the middle of the crowd, Iglesias gave appealingly heartfelt renditions of the ballads Perdedor and Loco, and paid tribute to his co-writer Descemer Bueno, accompanying him on guitar. Then he brought a guy down from the audience to help him lead the crowd in a version of Ben E. King’s Stand By Me, sharing glasses of what appeared to be tequila as the audience laughed and sang along.
But the climax came with Bailando, Iglesias’ current and probably biggest ever hit – bringing out the song’s co-stars, co-writer Bueno and reggaeton duo Gente de Zona, which sent the entire arena into an ecstatic roaring, singing, dancing frenzy. (That both are Cubans who live at least part time on the island made this a barrier-busting Miami moment, primarily because there were no politics whatsoever, just joyful partying.) Pitbull joined Iglesias for the finale, a booming I Like It, celebrating themselves, Miami and the music in a delirious cloud of confetti.
Opening act J Balvin, a newcomer with several hits and Latin Grammy nominations, opened. His melodic, pop-inflected reggaeton and bachata style songs were appealingly different from the falsetto crooning of Romeo Santos and Prince Royce, who dominate Latin pop radio – as was Balvin’s more varied and muscular rhythm. But his performance needs to be a lot more focused and charismatic if he’s ever going to approach their status.