Last Night: Juan Luis Guerra at the American Airlines Arena

Juan Luis Guerra

Saturday, July 12, 2008

American Airlines Arena, Miami

Roaring airplanes - on dual screens - and luggage towing flight attendants on stage, albeit uninspiring production tools, were clear indicators that Juan Luis Guerra could not be far behind. And while his mere presence seconds later was welcomed with a standing ovation, Guerra's initial Travesia Tour performance experienced some turbulence throughout the two-hour show.

While Guerra aced inspiring renditions of “Bachata Rosa” and “Burbujas De Amor” with sincere emotion and opened with a fully-charged “La Travesia,” he appeared uninterested at times. Despite the blistering sounds of a tight 20-piece band, and a lively sellout crowd ready to kick-off the tour with a bang, Guerra rarely matched the intensity in the building.

Despite having the crowd at his feet - and up dancing - with the likes of “La Bilirrubina” and “Las Avispas,” Guerra, although not known for interacting with the crowd, appeared stiff and stale. But while not at his best. Guerra did have standout moments, including a smooth-sounding and tender version of “Ojala que llueva cafe,” accompanied by snapshots of white doves and children. Deeply religious, the Dominican singer/songwriter also seemed at ease while slicing through “Para Ti,” a fiery merengue which complements his nasal voice well.

His long list of accomplishments over 25 years of a career and international star status no doubt allow Guerra some wiggle room. But its those very reasons as well that he should be held responsible for the end result of Saturday night's concert - especially on opening night of a U.S. tour.

Critic’s Notebook:

Personal Bias: The jazz and funky fusions of Calor Urbano, which impressed during an opening three-song set, went mostly overlooked by a restless crowd.

Random Detail: Constantly pressured by his wife Nora over the course of their 25-year marriage to go dancing, Guerra repeatedly rejects her with “he rather make people dance, than dance himself.”

And judging by his constant backwards hop and uninspired, stuck-in-mud leg shifts, he's definitely made the right choice by avoiding the dance floor whenever possible.

By the way: Being accompanied by a sassy and sensual woman with plenty of Dominican blood - and one who proved she can merengue all night long - made for a pleasant workout.

– Fernando Ruano Jr.

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