Reviews of Romeo Santos live shows tend to center on his titillating finale; you know, the part where he gets a fan onstage and performs his hit “Propuesta Indecente” under the sheets of a red bed.
But a Santos performance, as evidenced by the last of his three consecutive Miami shows at the AmericanAirlines Arena June 21, is anything but a gimmick. Instead, this was a two-hours-plus musical tour de force.
With two solo albums of hits under his belt, not to mention his Aventura staples, Santos can literally sing for hours, accompanied only by his on-stage wit, a very tight 13-piece band and a surprisingly potent and in-tune voice. While it may seem like a stretch to compare him to Juan Gabriel, given the disparity in their genres (Santos sings bachata, Juan Gabirel sings mariachi and ballads), Santos’ skills as a storyteller who can narrate each song with inflection and conviction—and no need to go into overwrought chest thumping or cringe-inducing facial expressions—recalls Juan Gabriel’s similar attributes.
But Santos is bringing it to a whole new bilingual generation, and that in itself—beyond the impressive performance– is noteworthy.
Santos kicks off his shows with bravado. Several minutes of photos scroll through the screen onstage, all heralding the arrival of the “King” (as in, the “King of bachata”), with a “RS “crest popping up everywhere and a mike stand with a crown, flanked by two giant lion statues.
But when Santos finally takes the stage—dressed in tight jeans, white t-shirt and a fitted leather jacket—he gets right to it with little preamble. Hits like “Cancioncitas de Amor” and “Loco”—the Enrique Iglesias duet he sings here with his back-up vocalist—roll out, peppered with a steady banter with the crowd that grows progressively more interactive.
“When guys are unfaithful, they do it for sport, because shit just happens,” he said early on, in one of many suggestive soliloquies that delighted fans. “The first mistake they make is not being discreet. You know what I’m talking about! Women are much smarter ‘cause they don’t tell anyone, except their mom, who isn’t going to say shit. Not even their best friend because the guy they’re in bed with is probably her best friend’s husband.”
This sort of commentary evolved. As is the case in all Santos shows, he brought an overweight girl onstage, embraced, stole kisses and simulated (or not) some crotch grabbing (her hand on his). The “Propuesta Indecente” bed scene, of course, is widely anticipated.
But in between that—in between Santos making the guys in the audience bark and the women meow—there’s a whole lot of music, beautifully executed.
Santos can pare down the sound for more acoustic-minded performances where he’s accompanied by virtuoso guitar, the single, pizzicato melody lines mimicking his piercing voice. There are songs that feel like little films; stories that make your breath catch, with no need for supporting audiovisual material to distract .
There is, finally, an artist who has managed to mainstream a niche genre by effectively bridging the gap between elegance and bawdiness with huge musical and entertainment skills.
It’s taken Santos more than a decade to reach his current “king” status. But his staying power is more than assured.