Photos: Paul Trinh
The aroma of incense was emanating from backstage and the fan excitement was heavy just before the start of a recent Sunday night concert by Ricky Martin. Inside the posh arena at Mohegan Sun, the anticipation was palpable as a multicultural crowd waited for the Latin hunk to emerge. Since there was no opening act, one fan took it upon himself to fill the slot. Absolutely gettin’ down with sharp club-ready dance moves, the enthusiastic fellow was cutting a rug sandwiched between the seating rows accompanied by the pre-show dance mix blasting from the speakers and the crowd goading him on.
But enough about that, the fans at Mohegan Sun (including myself) were here to see the Puerto Rican entertainer emerge with his infectious Latin swagger. On hiatus from the concert scene for a few years to liberate his homosexuality (about time), raise newborn twin sons (through surrogate) and write an autobiography (Me), he has now returned triumphant touring in support of his newly released CD, “Música + Alma + Sexo”. In English as Music + Soul + Sex, the album is an organic collection of English and Spanish pop tunes ranging from jangly synth-rock to soft Latin balladry to groove-ready dance tracks, with songwriting covering cathartic topics of unity, identity and acceptance.
In concert, the songs were converted into a showman’s appeal and theatricality. Opening the set with “Será Será”, Ricky made a grand entrance on an industrial-age multi-platform cage tower. This seemed to be a fitting metaphor of personal liberation in relation to the opening video montage that had Ricky bonded in chains and encased in a straitjacket. From there, the energy was non-stop and the momentum was sustained throughout this dazzling, fast-moving production. Ricky had it all: humbling boyish personality, charismatic zeal, eye-opening sex appeal and the fashion-conscious costume changes. Plus at 39, he didn’t even miss a beat with his infectious dance moves. Leading the sharp corp of energetic young dancers, Ricky effortlessly put his mark on the clever Broadway-style choreography. This must be in preparation for his anticipated turn as Che Guevara in the upcoming Broadway revival of Evita in 2012.
Covering his Spanglish catalog of hits: “Vuelve”, “Livin’ La Vida Loca”, “The Cup of Life”, “She Bangs”, “La Bomba”, “Frío”, “María”, it was an entertaining parade of hits and pivoting Latin flair. The backing band was expert in their arrangements of the radio-ready grooves. By giving some cheeky songs like “Shake Your Bon-Bon” a samba flavor was a welcome reinterpretation.
Ricky also used the time as a cultural promotions platform for his homeland, Puerto Rico. Teasing the crowd with cinematic images of rugged mountains and tropical beachscapes, it was all about ethnic pride for the Latin star. It was also Ricky’s ongoing credo of the universality of music uniting people of all nations. Name-checking the various national flags seen in the audience (mostly from Puerto Rico), Ricky relishes at the thought of people of different cultures sharing in the revelry just through music. He has set out to continue the mission on this tour, but who can resist?
RICKY MARTIN @ Mohegan Sun, CT