The fans have been waiting for this one for a while. Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias and Florida rapper Pitbull were supposed to bring their show to Montreal’s Bell Centre on June 5th, but Iglesias fell ill and they were forced to postpone it until Monday, October 9th. Thankfully, for the most part, the show was well worth the wait.
The initial line was very long and security seemed to be having a particularly difficult time with this crowd. One guy in a flashy orange jacket felt it was his right to skip ahead and meet his friends who were already inside because he had a ticket so why shouldn’t he? On my way in, I wished the guard dealing with him the best of luck and he laughed.
I then crossed something off of my bucket list that I didn’t even know was on there: I got to see a boy band perform live. CNCO, the latest group of young singers to be thrown together by a TV show, lined up on the stage each in front of their own individual screen covered pillar and did everything I want a boy band to do, and by that I mean they pointed and slowly turned at the same time. It was awesome. They alternated between addressing the crowd in Spanish and English to equal levels applause, which made me feel like the only person there who didn’t speak Spanish. I overheard one young lady exclaim that their set was the best 30 minutes of her life. Well done, kids.
Right before his set began, Enrique Iglesias broke the proverbial fourth wall by casually walking onto the stage and snapping some photos with fans in the front of the crowd. What a stand-up guy. He and his crew made better use of the Bell Centre’s space than nearly any other act that I’ve ever seen there. Two ramps lead practically right up into the crowd on either side of the huge stage and a long runway ran down the centre of the floor and featured a working conveyor should he so choose to glide along it. At several points. A traditional drum set and a more Latin variation flanked either side of the main stage. Three giant screens, which put IMAX to shame, covered the entire back wall and projected colourful montages to fit whichever song was running. There was another stage toward the back of the floor, which Iglesias used to invite one lucky fan on to have a drink with him. After a short but adorable back and forth, the King of Latin Pop learned that the lady was a new mother of a four-month-old little girl and that she had driven two hours to see this show. After hearing this, the singer opted to give her water and keep the alcohol for himself. His backing band was as engaging as he was and genuinely seemed like they were having the time of their lives. One singer in particular with huge Diana Ross hair and the shiniest shirt you’ve ever seen almost stole the show a few times with her fiery dance moves. She was even given a dance solo which evolved into a short but enjoyable cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.”
While he didn’t actually sing much, opting to let the crowd chant his giant hooks back to him, Iglesias proved to be one hell of a showman. He moved quickly but deliberately, running, jumping and sliding across the stage to interact with as many screaming fans as possible. At one point in between songs, he simply stood on the smaller stage and allowed 15 000 screaming fans to shower him with praise. He spoke very little but when he did it felt genuine; he recounted his first visit to Montreal some 20 years ago and admitted that back then he could have never pictured his career continuing in the way that it has before politely asking us to follow him through the next 30 or 40 years. He played all the hits, older winners like “Bailamos” and the ever meme-able “Hero” as well as more recent bangers like “I’m a Freak” and “Subeme La Radio.” Pyrotechnics, lots of confetti and big white beach balls with his initials on them were entertaining afterthoughts, but the real wow-factor came from just how much care and attention Iglesias and his band gave to the happy crowd.
For a man who embodies the very singular Playboy lifestyle better than any other living celebrity, Pitbull seemed slightly conflicted. In between songs, he embarked on lengthy diatribes about how fucked up the situation is in the U.S. right now, how the news only chooses to report negative headlines and how money and fame ultimately don’t matter. These were nice sentiments, but they were awfully general and made confusing by the fact that his shtick is essentially about turning life into one big, money-driven party, as exemplified by songs like “Don’t Stop the Party,” “Fireball,” and “International Love.” His assertion of being happy to see so many “hot, sexy, naughty, strong, empowered, sophisticated women” was made hollow by the follow-up invitation to those same women to come back with him to his hotel room which led into the oh-so-sexist “Hotel Room Service.” It didn’t help that gender divide on this stage was very clear, with the men making up the band and the only women being a group of dancers in revealing leotards called “The Most Bad Ones.” Their dancing was cool, but by the 6th or 7th go around their moves, almost entirely centred on their asses, became a little dull. It didn’t help that those posteriors were given so much attention through slapping and on the knees worshipping that they threatened to become the stars of the show.
The performance was entertaining enough otherwise. The screens used by Iglesias served the same purpose of displaying choice lyrics and a graphics to suit the songs, though they were less mesmerizing the second time around. The two drummers playing in synchrony were cool, but ultimately the focal point was Armando Pérez, and he made sure we never forgot that. From the opening countdown from 10 to Mr. 305, the disembodied voice listing Mr. Worldwide’s various accomplishments of being a businessman, entrepreneur and educator (really?) to a literal Kodak of him standing in Times Square with the Kodak logo on a billboard in the background, it was almost too much Pitbull to handle. In the end, the crowd seemed to enjoy it and they danced and cheered in acceptance, but Pitbull just couldn’t manage to match the charisma and spectacle brought by Enrique Iglesias and his band.
Written by Syd Ghan
*edited by Lia Davis