Prior to Friday night’s concert at the American Airlines Arena, New Times pit joint headliners Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull in a goofy imaginary brawl. In the end, the Cuban-American rapper bested his Spanish counterpart. But in the real world, this powerhouse odd couple appears to have found the perfect bromance to balance each other onstage. Although the four-hour homecoming show in downtown Miami consisted of two completely different concerts, with Pit once again edging out Iglesias, the real winners were the 20,000 fans in attendance.
The evening’s opener, CNCO, a Spanish boy band from Univision’s La Banda, was fine, but Miami’s own DJ Laz really lathered up the crowd for a performer the radio personality helped propel to stardom.
When it comes to Pitbull, there’s one thing we can all agree on: He ain’t subtle. His entrance was as over-the-top as one would expect, with a wall of giant screens counting down to his imminent arrival. Several words describing Armando Christian Pérez in all his glory flashed before our eyes like the intro to a corporate retreat featuring some guru motivational speaker. Oh, and one of those roles mentioned was actually “motivational speaker.” Rising from beneath the stage floor to the classic guitar riffs of Van Halen’s “Jump,” Pitbull swaggered down the extended stage to the center of the venue and took the energy from zero to "dale!" in a split second.
It was hardly the last time Mr. Worldwide borrowed from the annals of pop rock to further the party. From the opener, 2013’s “Feel This Moment,” which samples the main melody from A-ha's "Take On Me," to his guitarist sneaking in the rhythm of Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” at the close of the second song to every other record on Pitbull’s discography, this genre-hopping, cherry-picking musical chameleon loves to pirate familiar sounds from across the musical spectrum.
And damn him — it works.
Slipping in and out of styles with such ease is what allows Pitbull to surge past his status as a Miami favorite. Nothing is sacred to this man, and that’s part of the appeal, the fun, and the plan to win with every demographic. He will surprise by having something for everyone. From Main Street to Calle Ocho, the man delivers. Still, he couldn’t do it alone — not without the band or the dancers.
Those dancers, though.
Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg
My God. The dancers. From their first outfit, a white two-piece with matching bejeweled hijabs, to their last, essentially red body thongs, these were the sexiest, most Miami women on Earth. Pitbull somehow cloned his own small army of Beyoncés and J.Los to fantastical effect.
During a Pitbull show, everything is dripping in sweat (including a nonstop Pitbull, clad in a tailored suit, of course), gyrating wildly, bursting into flames, exploding, and loud enough to be heard from the satellites in space orbiting Planet Pit. It’s the ultimate Miami wet dream of a concert. The booty parade hardly paused to catch its breath, but when it did, Pitbull made the most of those moments as well, speaking to the crowd on many topics, all of them with a positive spin.
This Cuban Tony Robbins opined on a truly free Cuba (“with the help of God...”); building schools in his ancestral country; uniting through music; forgetting about “all the bullshit,” such as bills, court dates, and divisive politics, for a night; and remembering that we’re all a part of the “United States of Motherfucking America.”
Of course, this being Miami, he fed from the local flavor and gave us “The Anthem,” played the race footage from Fate of the Furious that was filmed in Cuba for “Hey Ma,” and took a big swig of vodka before giving love to Hialeah, all the Cubiches, and all of their Miami boroughs. It’s easy to forget how many hits Pitbull has given us over the years. In fact, about two-thirds of the way through, he performed a medley that squeezed in “Culo,” “I Know You Want Me,” and “Shake” into one furious ten-minute segment.
Honestly, even the harshest critics (including this one) would have to be soulless or outright despise joy not to appreciate a spectacle that was every Little Havana backyard barbecue fueled by dominoes and lechón.
Enrique Iglesias was also, as the kids say, "lit af," but in a slightly more freewheeling, off-the-rails sort of way.
Essentially, he seemed really, really drunk.
Enrique gave the crowd what they wanted.
Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg
Stealing a page from Pitbull’s book (or maybe the other way around because this is their third tour together), Iglesias emerged from under the middle of the extended stage to the sounds of his current dance hit, “Subeme la Radio.” He added a wrinkle with a moving walkway straight out of The Jetsons and brought his whole crew onstage to help him with the buoyant track.
Clad in a black T-shirt, his signature ball cap, and what looked like pants made from electrical tape, Iglesias immediately set about melting hearts. Seriously, though, he has aged exactly the same amount since the '90s — not at all.
Powered by the thunderous beats of a pair of stadium favorites — Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and the White Stripes' “Seven Nation Army” — Iglesias’ time on the main stage was punctuated by countless moonwalks on the moving walkway reminiscent of the treadmill gymnastics OK Go pulled off in its video for “Here It Goes Again.” There was also a lot of cheerleading. Iglesias was his own hype man, endlessly urging the crowd to sing.
He rocketed from one end of the stage to the other, letting the audience do most of the heavy lifting for the majority of the show. While they sang, he went to his go-to move, which was Jack on the bow of the Titanic, arms out, yelling some shit about being king of the world. The difference here was the King of Latin Pop was too busy tearing around like a toddler loosed on an unsuspecting babysitter after eating all of the Halloween candy.
The one exception to this was the move to the second, smaller stage located at the rear of the arena. Most of the band went with him for a pair of low-key romantic numbers and a dramatic duet with one of his singers. Emotive to a fault, Iglesias felt every tormented lyric during these scenes straight out of a novela, to the delight of his fans, several of which were lucky enough to get hugs, kisses, handshakes, and even a bottle of liquor.
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It was the last that seemed to get the singer really going. At one point, he brought out something brown (rum? whiskey?) to take a shot, set it down, seemed to forget about it, and then picked up another shot before giving it away. It was a smart move, because he needed his hands free to point and fist-pump. The rest of his body lay face-down on the extended stage and humped the floor while swimming in white confetti. Yes, really.
Though the heartthrob thrilled the audience with “Hero,” a song he wrote in his adopted hometown of Miami nearly 20 years ago, as well as “Escape” and both “Bailando” and “Bailamos,” it was sort of strange to see this manic behavior.
Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull closed the night together with their EDM banger, “I Like It.” Giant balloons emblazoned with “EI” on them rained from the sky while fans scrambled to either smack or snatch them between dance moves. The duo donned personalized Miami Heat jerseys at the conclusion (Pit’s shirt bore the number “305,” of course, because Pitbull) and walked off into the proverbial sunset, leaving behind exhausted and satisfied fans who all got what they wanted and then some.