Dressed up and sold out. That’s about the best way to describe Talking Stick Resort Arena for the Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull concert in Phoenix on June 14. The Phoenix stop was just the 6th show on the current tour, which started 11 days ago and goes through October 28.
The multi-generational audience was in a great mood even before stepping through the arena doors. The mood in the plaza in front of the arena was as upbeat and joyful as I’ve seen it before a concert. Fans were clearly expecting a fun, high energy show and they’re expectations were fully satisfied.
Iglesias’ staging was about as cool as I’ve seen, with a runway jutting out from the front of the stage halfway across the arena. Iglesias rose from the beneath the stage at the end of the runway, in the middle of the arena, to open the show. While the runway is fairly common, the moving sidewalk/conveyor belt running down the middle of it isn’t. Iglesias used it to great effect, running half way down the runway and surfing back to the front of the stage on the moving sidewalk. Finally, he had a second stage on the opposite side of the floor above the sound booth where he and several of his musicians performed an acoustic mini-set.
Iglesias’ voice was both strong when appropriate and emotional when called for. With a cool confidence about him, Iglesias danced tenderly with featured singer, Laura Jane, on the second stage and then poured shots for his musicians. Iglesias’s set list certainly delivered all of the hits his fans came to hear. He treated the Phoenix audience like they were the only people in the world, or at least the only ones who mattered at this moment, stopping for a selfie with one lucky fan while transitioning back from the second stage to the primary stage.
If Iglesias reflected cool confidence, Pitbull projected suave sophistication. Looking sleek in a black suit, black button-down shirt and sunglasses, Pitbull was the classy host inviting us to join him at his massive, multi-dimensional, multi-sensory dance-club. Surrounded by dancers for much the show, Pitbull’s set was as much about the presentation, the energy, the excitement, the dancing and the party as much as it was about the music. Pitbull didn’t just put on a concert, he presented a full extravaganza for his fans to participate in.
As Mr. Worldwide has done for the past several years, this show opened with a combination bio / promo scrolling broadly across the video screens and booming from the speakers – almost as if this were a self-help guru promoting his credentials. It seemed a bit self-glorifying at the time. In retrospect and after giving it some thought, I think I understand and appreciate his purpose for doing so. Throughout the concert, Pitbull referenced his humble roots, the people that helped him along the way (specifically radio DJ Joey Boy of LIVE 101.5 and the producers of The Fast and the Furious movie franchise). His point was, if I’m not overthinking it, that with hard work, people believing in you, some help from friends, and a just little luck along the way, it’s possible to rise above your circumstances to create something positive and powerful. As a message, that’s certainly as constructive as any that Pitbull could have delivered.
Pitbull definitely brought the energy – it was non-stop. There was no slowing down. Not in the music. Not among the dancers behind (and in front, and clinging to) him. Not among the terrific musicians backing him. Mr. Worldwide’s set was all go from the moment he took the stage to the moment he left. And it was glorious throughout.
One of the remarkable aspects to this show was just how well Iglesias and Pitbull go together. It’s tempting to say that it’s because of the Spanish and Latin-tinged music. And certainly there’s that, but that would be selling them short. The two toured together in September and October 2014 for 24 shows and then again in January and February 2015 for 14 more shows. Their respective music very much compliments each other without being identical or derivative. Each brings their own take, their own rhythm and certainly their own lyrics, but it all flows seamlessly. Except for Iglesias’ softer interlude in the middle of his set, they could almost alternate songs during a shared set and it would likely flow almost as seamlessly as each performer’s individual sets.