It makes no sense to me that I love Pitbull so much — he's this lizard-like pop star, a dude who, over the last decade, has made a name for himself by throwing gnarly verses about not-very-consensual-sounding sex acts with women into the middle of mindless, often bland club-bangers. Yet every time I see him — last night at the Pepsi Center marked my third Pitbull concert — I can't help but scream with sheer joy as he enters the proverbial room. He is the quintessential Tom Jones of pop-rap and this sold-out performance of pelvis and slithering smiles solidified it. Oh, and Enrique Iglesias was there, too.
From the moment Pitbull took the stage he was on fire; dressed in his typical, crisp Miami pimp suit and shades, the song and dance man threw down hit after hit, "International Love," "Hey Baby (Drop It To The Floor)" and "Get It Started" coming through as he walked with a swag in his step. Surrounded by a gorgeous cadre of scantily-clad dancers, Pitbull paused for a moment after each song to flash his creepy smile, stopping and standing silently just to grin and send the crowd into even more of a frenzy.
Putting down some soft footwork and subtle shimmying and shaking of his lower body through "Last Night," Pitbull showed off his simple but effective dance moves. That's the thing with Pitbull — less is more. He doesn't need costumes or elaborate choreography to put on a good show; he is a good show. Even when he played a dopey air guitar to thirty seconds of Guns N' Roses "Sweet Child O' Mine," he looked cool, and no one looks cool playing air guitar.
At one point in the night, Pitbull pulled a Hugh Hefner and deftly switched from a black suit coat to a white satin jacket, accentuating his slick on-stage persona. There was some mid-show pontificating about the power of music and the importance of the hustle, but it was all between-song blah, blah, blah that didn't mean much up against his bopping versions of "Bon, Bon" and "Back in Time." Backed by a band that included two percussionists, a group of hardworking dancers, a giant screen flashing multiple versions of Pitbull's face and cannons bursting with confetti, Pitbull had all the trappings of a massive pop show. But still, it was about him and his every move as he threw down his guest starring role on Ying Yang Twins' "Shake" into his even earlier-career Lil' Jon track "Culo" all the way through to "Calle Ocho," a reminder of just how many hits the rapper and master collaborator has had over the last ten-plus years.
And the hits didn't stop in this almost 90-minute-long set of pure energy, with Pitbull endlessly thrusting and winking and flicking his tongue through the JLo duet "Get On The Floor," his Ke$ha banger "Timber" and the A-Ha melody-driven Christina Aguilera single "Feel This Moment." The show was at its peak as the rapper shut it down with "Give Me Everything," the crowd getting one last blast of Pitbull and his dangerous flirtatiousness.
It felt like the show was over — but the other half of this dual headlining show, Enrique Iglesias, had yet to appear. The next fifty minutes or so was an odd turn of events, as Pitbull's set had shook up the crowd and brought the vibe to a raging party level only to be deflated by Iglesias. Right out of the gate something was off, whether it was the technical difficulties he seemed to be having with his in-ear monitors or the fact that Iglesias barely seemed to be singing at all.
The crooner did lots of jumping and hand-waving in an attempt to get the crowd reinvigorated, but kicking off his set with "I'm a Freak" felt like the wrong choice. His band sounded great and the backing track was plenty loud, but Iglesias himself was lost in the mix. The show continued on a disjointed path with tracks like "I Like How It Feels" and "No Me Digas Que No," Iglesias dressed in a t-shirt and hat that looked straight out of 1999. It was an appropriate outfit for his half-done rendition of "Bailamos," as it was the year of his first stateside hit.
The band filed off stage and through the crowd, walking to the back of the Pepsi Center floor to another stage behind the soundboard while playing a slowed, stripped down version of Sam Smith's "Stay With Me." Iglesias eventually joined them for what felt like the usual mid-set acoustic break from all the booming bass and visual flair of a big pop show — except it was just barely the beginning. The whole thing came off rushed and off-time, like a part of Iglesias's set was missing. But the show went on, the singer pushing his voice at points to where it sounded good.
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He invited an adoring fan onto the mini-stage to share a drink with him, a gentleman named José who could barely keep from crying as the singer sang "Stand By Me" to him and the crowd. It was a sweet moment and though Iglesias didn't sound his best, his genuine interest in his fan's well-being was true. The show then continued back on the main stage, with the singer disappearing momentarily to change his shirt.
The hits commenced, with Iglesias doing better through songs like "Be With You" and "Escape," getting his vocal bearings and finally seeming to pick up the lost energy of the show. More confetti coated the crowd and that aided in the excitement a little too, but it was his bursting rendition of "Tonight I'm Fucking You" complete with the lyrics appearing on the big screen in faux-neon lighting that elevated the otherwise flat set.
Another oddly long pause between songs killed any remaining stamina in the set and the singer eventually made his way through to "Bailando" with minimal fanfare. Pitbull returned to save the night, joining Iglesias for a fired up version of "I Like It," but was an abrupt ending to the show, as the audience stood staring at the stage wondering if it was actually over once the performers had left. Whether it was a one-night hiccup for Iglesias or not, the show belonged to Pitbull. He brought a potency to the sold-out arena that needed no other headliner but Mr. Worldwide himself.
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies