Written by Wilmar Mejia
Photos by Joe Guzman
Sometime between the time dinosaurs ruled the earth and Spotify controlled the world, the music of Ricky Martin had the whole world dancing and singing along. And last Friday, November 17, at AAC, it was easy to remember why. As the Trilogy Tour 2023 rolled into town, Ricky Martin opened a spectacular show that featured Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull as the closer for the evening. Given the magnitude and world popularity of each performer, it was impossible to devise who was the biggest star. One could argue that the star was the music, and if the mass excitement of an arena crowd of over ten thousand people singing, screaming, dancing, and jumping along serves as an indication, well they all enjoyed each and every performer just the same, and every song was a perfect piece of this magnificent performance.
Ricky Martin started the evening by taking the place into the palm of his hand with set opener “Pégate”, and he brought a one-two punch with “María”. Staying focused on his singing and dancing, it was only until the end of María when Ricky addressed the crowd with a “Come on Dallas, let me hear you!” and Dallas was heard. He walked all over the stage owning each corner as he danced with his marvelous troupe of seven dancers, four males and three females, that captured the crowd’s attention as they took turns in seductive dances next to Ricky, and you could feel the energy that fed the crowd was in the singer and the music, regardless of whom he was dancing with at the moment. For most of the show, Ricky stuck to the songs without any moments of talking to the crowd. The nine-piece band kept them sounding full and vibrant, filling the arena with three horns, percussion, drums, bass, guitar, keys, and a dedicated background singer. His 12 song set featured worldwide hits as “Shake Your Bon-Bon”, “She Bangs”, as well as Spanish language jewels like “Por Arriba”, “Por Abajo”, and perhaps the evening’s most subtle moment of ecstasy in Franco de Vita’s composition “Vuelve”. To end the evening, the jab and cross of Desmond Child’s songs that pushed Latin music to a worldwide non-Spanish speaking audience 25 years ago, “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and “The Cup Of Life”. One could argue that without those two songs, shows like The Trilogy would not have occurred.
But if Ricky was about celebrating legendary songs that defined the closing of the 20th Century, and dancing to every beat of them, Enrique Iglesias brought with him a catalog of hits that bypassed his mid 90s mega hits and took us from his 1999 Bailamos all the way to Me Pasé and other songs from his Final album, from 2021. Using a second stage on the other side of the arena for masterful interpretations on acoustic guitar, and a featured female singer for Loco, Enrique kept the whole arena screaming in ecstasy as his seductive voice and magnetic stage presence could have kept the audience screaming even if he was only standing there without making a sound. A total of fourteen songs, from Bailamos to Duele El Corazón, represented more than twenty years of Enrique hits. Among so many dance tracks, 2001’s global hit Hero slowed things down just to let the whole audience carry the song. Chorus after chorus. Instead of cooling it down, some forgiveness (Nicky Jam’s “El Perdón” that features Enrique on its radio version) heated things up. The seductive dance beat that had the crowd swaying in unison was a reminder that the party may have started two hours ago, but it ain’t over till it’s over. While for Enrique, his show ends Bailando, and the audience singing by themselves, with every breath they had left. The show ends and you can tell by the smiles on the faces, particularly of the females, that being in the presence of these artists made them feel like the luckiest, while standing next to them, in the grin of their partners you could almost read they cannot wait to get lucky.
And if there was still any need and craving that wasn’t satisfied, Pitbull arrived to take the whole place by storm. While his band was welcoming everyone to a jungle, Mr. 305 simply came here to party, and party he did. While I grew up vastly familiar with the music of Ricky Martin, and well acquainted with the first decade of Enrique’s music, I have been familiar only with the name Pitbull, but not many of his songs. In a way, I would have anticipated the order of performers to go a in reverse, with Pitbull opening and Ricky Martin closing. If I had any doubt if Pitbull could headline a show over two of the most popular worldwide artists, then he proved why he is Mr. Worldwide himself. I once attended a theater show by a rock band that was certified with a Guinness World Record as the loudest rock concert. At that show I clearly remember feeling my body shake and the ground quake with the sound of the music proving to me how they had earned that record. As Pitbull began each one of his songs, the jumping of the audience reminded me of that show, as the comfortable arena seats felt like high school bleachers shaking and for a moment my thoughts were more with the venue’s structural engineers than with the music performers on stage: the place was literally hopping.
But if you think Pitbull’s music is all about party and hotel, about jumpin’ and on the floor, then we only have half the story. Mr. Armando Pérez (Pitbull’s birth name) might now be the world’s biggest party host, but he never forgets his roots. He might be all about seizing the crowd’s energy through the music and then uses it to spread a message of community and positivity in every moment between songs. Such as when he introduces the song “Time Of Our Lives” the 14th in a fifteen song set, he reminds the crowd that the two most powerful things in the world are love and time, and if we love our time, our time will love us back. At a Pitbull show, there is no doubt, young and old, English speaking or not, American born or from another part of the world, everybody has a good time, and every single body dances. If I arrived a novice in all things Pitbull, I walked out a major fan, and admirer of what he does, and what he stands for. To borrow swords from the first song of the night, Ricky Martin’s Pégate, “como decía mi madre bailando todo se arregla”. In a year that began with my own mom’s passing, those words, which translated mean “as my mom used to say, when you dance everything gets better” the message resonate’s loud and clear. Needless to say, the Trilogy is among the best package tours any fan of music can enjoy. And if you missed this show, it’s coming back in 2024 with stops in Texas and Oklahoma, with a show scheduled at Dickie’s in Ft. Worth. for February 10. Tickets are on sale now.