Marc Anthony Electrifies Crowd, Criticizes Donald Trump at Madison Square Garden: Live Review

Marc Anthony
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“Man, it’s good to be home,” Marc Anthony exclaimed Saturday night (Feb. 6) during a loud, raucous show at Madison Square Garden. “I’m just gonna take this is in for a minute,” he added, basking in cheers. It was his first performance at the Manhattan arena in nearly a decade, and he appeared happy to be back. Judging by the volume in the venue, the crowd was equally elated to see him.

Anthony was born and raised in New York, and he initially gravitated to the city’s dance scene, recording house music with the duo Masters at Work in the early ‘90s. Along with La India, another singer whose voice graced Masters at Work records, Anthony soon started making hard-driving salsa records, injecting youthful edge into a dormant salsa scene. His early albums, especially Todo a Su Tiempo and Contra la Corriente, are his finest: vibrant, flowery, efficient.

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In 1999, Anthony’s trajectory changed – he jumped to a new label, recorded several hits in English and started working more with mainstream pop producers, including Cory Rooney (Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey) and Rodney Jerkins (Brandy, Destiny’s Child). In the late ‘00s, he became more historically minded, recording an album of songs by the ‘70s salsa star Hector Lavoe and another record that revisited old tunes from the likes of Roberto Carlos and José José. Anthony’s most recent release, 3.0 (2013), was a satisfying reunion with the producer Sergio George, who oversaw Todo a Su Tiempo.

He drew from multiple phases of his career at this Madison Square Garden show -- though he ignored the English language hits -- suggesting cross-decade connections between, for example, “Te Conozco Bien” (1995) and “Vivir Mi Vida” (2013). Anthony brought along a war machine of a band that included backup singers, multiple percussionists, three trombones, a pair of trumpets and a violinist. The musicians were spread in an outward-facing circle around a stage that sat in the middle of the arena, defending their perch against incursions from all sides. A band with this size and skill can do things that other musical entities cannot, suggesting glitzy showbiz pomp but also punishing power, maintaining running volleys of call and response between vocalists and instrumentalists, and pushing a hearty, insistent, exciting sound.

While the band held position, Anthony appeared to be everywhere at once, prancing and dancing in and around his musicians on a constant charm offensive. He kissed the stage the moment he arrived; early in the evening, he took a moment to adjust his bassist’s scarf and pinch him affectionately on the cheek. During Todo a Su Tiempo’s “Hasta Ayer,” which involves a lengthy violin solo over a mean, funky vamp, he exhorted his violinist onward and sneaked up behind him as he played to adjust his hip movements. In another amusing set piece, Anthony and other laughing band members sprayed water on one of the drummers as he battled his way through a tremendous solo; each time he hit his kit, droplets flew everywhere.

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A Marc Anthony concert also involves a series of ritualized exchanges with the audience; it is a festival of mutual generosity. He turned to the crowd and waved his hands like a conductor, finessing the constant singalongs, or held his arms wide and wiggled his hips, soliciting thunderous applause. He kissed an old lady, shook hands, accepted flowers, and blew theatrical, lip-smacking air smooches. And he draped himself in the Puerto Rican flags that were handed to him by the audience, especially during “Preciosa,” which honors the island.  

“Preciosa” was one of several occasions on which Anthony displayed his remarkable operatic vocal control, holding notes for durations that seemed superhuman. He added emphasis to statements by throwing one hand upwards as he hurled his voice to the heavens. During the sad tales, Anthony planted one foot in front of the other and angled his torso at 45 degrees, so he was dangling over his microphone. To raise energy, he bounded from one leg to the other, waving his fists and pounding his chest like a boxer.

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When it was time to deliver the night’s most important message, he stood upright. “I really want you guys to know: I’m proud to be born and f---ing raised in New York City,” he assured the crowd. “I’m proud to be f---ing Puerto Rican,” he continued. “I’m Latino in the U.S.A…. No matter where we come from, we’re Latinos. We have to take care of each other. There’s only one f---ing box to check.”

“F--- Donald Trump!” he added, reiterating comments he has made in the media criticizing the presidential candidate’s xenophobia. “Wake that motherf---er up!” The audience responded with the night’s most ear-splitting applause, and Anthony went back to work.