Latin Grammys 2015: Romeo Santos, Dionne Warwick & More Pay Tribute to Roberto Carlos

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for LARAS
Roberto Carlos performs during the 2015 Latin GRAMMY Person of the Year honoring Roberto Carlos at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on November 18, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

Among the 16 artists who have been honored as Person of the Year at the Latin Grammys, none have embodied the language duality that defines the Latin Academy as perfectly as Roberto Carlos.

The Brazilian icon became a star singing in Portuguese, then accomplished the very unusual feat of becoming and equally big star by singing most of his repertoire in Spanish.

So honoring him Wednesday night, in both languages, was particularly apt.

What was particularly impressive, however, was the roster of acts that were there, including Romeo Santos and Dionne Warwick, and the fact that they all wore white, per Carlos' well-known predilection for that color. 

Carlos is, of course, an iconic global artist who’s penned some of the biggest hits in the Latin music songbook. Still, getting Santos—a reclusive star—to show up and pay his respects as he did, opening the evening’s show with a stylized rendition of “Un gato en la oscuridad” (an original entry to the San Remo Music Festival of 1972) was not only a coup (particularly considering Santos hasn’t been announced as a performer at the Latin Grammys tonight), but a big testament to Carlos’ position in Latin music.

And while Wednesday night’s show didn’t have lots of uptempo fireworks, it was an elegant, thoughtful and string-laden homage that traversed the versatility of Carlos’ repertoire.

Produced by José Tillán and with Dan Warner as musical director (the same team as last year’s homage to Joan Manuel Serrat), the evening featured performances that ranged from Dionne Warwick singing  “Falando Serio” to Alejandro Sanz performing “Lady Laura” backed by the house orchestra and accompanying himself on guitar.

Highlights were “Jesús Cristo,” performed by Leslie Grace and Maluma in a spirited encounter of gospel (Grace) and rap (Maluma); Malú and Melendi’s collab on the rock side of Carlos; and Carlos Vives and Julieta Venegas on “El Progreso” (with Venegas playing the accordion).

But the evening’s brightest moment came from salsa star Victor Manuelle, who lent the evening its biggest energetic push, not just through the obvious -- performing a danceable salsa version of “Desahogo” -- but through his fantastic soneos, or improvisations.

Certain in his ability to improvise in pretty much any scenario, Manuelle took the biggest risk in re-imagining Carlos’ music, and won.

His rendition was an example of the elasticity, and longevity of Carlos’ repertoire.

“I’ll never forget this night, as long as I live,” said the Brazilian star at the end of the evening.




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