Julieta Venegas at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, February 27

Julieta Venegas
Presented by Jack Daniels
Gusman Center for the Performing Arts
Sunday, February 27, 2011

Better Than: The last time she was here, at a smokey Dolce and very pregnant. And that show was damned good.

Without question, Julieta Venegas is one of Latin pop's chameleons. And the reasons we've listed previously in print, labeling her a shapeshifter, are only part of that. Beyond an ever-evolving style and her penchant for adopting any instrument she might happen across in the music shop, Julieta also blends into whatever topography she traverses in the genre's landscape.

She fits snugly into her role as pop music icon, radio-friendly singles playing nice with the likes of Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, and Camila's, whether you're listening to Romance here or you find yourself in New York, Chicago, L.A., or Puerto Rico. But there's no questioning her legitimacy as an artist and a composer. She's easily one of Latin music's most original singer-songwriters, showcasing both an unmistakeable voice and style.

Yet however excellent her songwriting, Julieta is after all, a performer, and she loves performing. So suffice it to say, I was psyched to catch her gig last night, courtesy of JD, at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts. The venue alone is always a treat, as it feels a little like you've traveled back in time to some bygone era to watch a show. And then landed in the Mexico ride at Epcot.

Seeing Venegas live, you definitely feel the love. When not sitting behind her keyboard hammering away at the ivories with circus organist gusto, she bounces around the stage dancing to the music. And in between songs, she proves that she really does relish a good yarn, explaining the inspiration behind almost every one of her songs.

She opened the show with "Amores Platonico." Later on in the set, "Canciones de Amor," which she introduced as an indictment of love songs. "You listen to the radio and you get one song after another about love," she explained. "But they always fall short, and can never really get the breadth of it."

Songs you'd expect from the hit parade made it to the set, of course--"Limon y Sal," "Me Voy," "Eterno," "Algo Esta Cambiando," and the yearning piano ballad "Lento," to name a few. As did the big hit off her MTV Unplugged album, "El Presente," which closed the shwo. Note that the theater didn't feature standing room. But the song drew the audience from the seats to the front to dance along, and they stayed there through the encore.

And of course, there was the upbeat, hip-hop fused "Eres Para Mi," which featured recent stateside revelation Anita Tijoux on Limon y Sal. Julieta played this just a few songs earlier. The opening accordion and the bouncing bass line didn't coax the crowd to the front, like "El Presente" did. But a pair of baby-boomer lesbians -- let's call them pioneers -- did answer its siren call, thus paving the way for the crowd that would later spew from their seats en masse.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: It's my third time seeing Julieta Venegas live, and each show's been better.

The Crowd: Hispanics? Presumably? Oh, and that pair of middle-age lesbians who took it upon themselves to get up and dance in front of the stage until they got sent back to their seats by a bouncer.

Overheard in the Crowd: "Go Heat!" (Admittedly, this was outside, in the crowd on the sidewalk, some of whom was making their way to the game).

Random Detail: It's easier getting seats under this indoor rendering of nighttime firmament than it is at Epcot.

Julieta Venegas Setlist:
-"Amores Platonicos"
-"Limon y Sal"
-"Algo Esta Cambiando"
-"Bien o Mal"
-"Otra Cosa / Love Cats"
-"Seria Feliz"
-"Canciones de Amor"
-"Debajo de Mi Lengua"
-"Algun Dia"
-"Ya Conoceran"
-"La Jaula de Oro" (Tigres del Norte cover)
-"Me Voy"
-"Eres Para Mi"
-"El Presente"

-"Sin Documentos"

Follow Crossfade on Facebook and Twitter @Crossfade_SFL.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Paul Torres