No Fire in J-Lo's Belly (Was There No Room?)
Monday, October 8, 2007
Friday by day, rumors were rife, blogosphere, baby bump, blah, blah, blah: J-Lo, Marc Anthony, "expected announcement," says "insider." Friday by night, onstage at Verizon Center, rumors were neither dispelled nor discounted, but were seemingly . . . encouraged, thanks to Jennifer Lopez's skillful use of -- dare we say it? -- a rather pregnant pause.
After dancing very carefully through her opening number, a rote rendition of her latest single, "Do It Well," the onetime Fly Girl stood onstage, beatifically basking in the applause, and murmured into the mike: "I would like to welcome you to my very first tour." More murmurs about the fabulosity of her singing spousal unit, who'd opened the nearly three-hour show: "How sick is Marc?" And then came the setup: "This is such a special time for me . . ." she cooed, as one hand drifted upward to rest upon the much-speculated-upon-but-at-the- moment-obscured bump.
On cue, the close-to-capacity crowd roared. Lopez looked startled, per Jumbotron, laughed and said, ever so softly, "Thank you."
Or spin control?
After all, Lopez has carved a career out of the art of spin, a talent that's carried her through her many incarnations. Now, she's the seemingly contented 38-year-old matron embarking on a his-n-hers tour with her husband of three years, the outrageously talented salsero and actor Marc Anthony.
La Lopez is all about product placement.
As concert tours go, "Juntos en Concierto" (Together in Concert) is a risky endeavor. He's the biggest-selling salsa singer of all time, with a loyal fan base of Spanish-language fans; she's a hip-pop singer with a voice made for the studio.
On the tickets, Lopez received top billing, while Anthony's name appeared in triple-the-size type, a reflection, perhaps of the careful negotiations needed to manage two massive careers -- and egos.
With such a setup, comparisons are inevitable, with Anthony emerging not surprisingly as the more talented and more assured performer by far. The result was an enjoyable but uneven evening that would have benefited greatly, in timing and in pacing, from a more careful blending of the two acts. Instead, it was divided into three parts: His, Hers and Theirs.
Anthony made his entrance from below the stage, rising to stage level on a platform, dressed in a pearl gray suit and white shirt unbuttoned to reveal a heavy cross, his otherworldly tenor piercing through the smoke, crooning "Aguanile" to a solo flamenco guitar. A chorus of Africanized congos kicked in, mixing in with the flamenco rhythms, reflecting salsa's mezcla, or mixed roots, while the Jumbotron flashed footage from "El Cantante," the biopic starring Anthony as the troubled salsa legend Hector Lavoe and Lopez as his wife, Puchi.
Salsa's a sweaty, intimate affair, and Anthony, despite the cavernous locale, managed to evoke that intimacy, drawing in the audience, chatting in both English and Spanish.
Anthony is a man who knows how to milk a moment, how to lower the volume in "Hasta Ayer" ("Until Yesterday") until his band's rhythms are just percolating under the surface and then pumping up the volume until the sound swells the theater, forcing the Puerto Rican-flag waving crowd to its feet, dancing in the aisles.
"I've never experienced D.C. like this!' he said, hand clasped to chest, momentarily overcome.
Similarly wowed was his wife, who appeared surprisingly shy and humble as she stood onstage. "I'm still taking this all in," she said. But where her husband's performance was relaxed and organic, hers was all flashpots, multiple bump-hiding wardrobe changes and video clips from her previous incarnations, with hyperkinetic backup dancers and backup singers to bolster her own more cautious dance moves.
She worked her way through her hits, from "If You Had My Love" to "I'm Real," with Ja Rule's raps recorded on tape, to her newer efforts, "Let's Get Loud," to pleasing enough effect. Still, all too often, the music provided by Anthony's fabulous band overpowered her thin vocals, and it was hard to tell where Lopez ended and her backup singers began.
Lopez seemed to find her lungs when her husband came back onstage, and the pair sang "Somos Dos" (We're Two") and "No Me Ames" ("Don't Love Me") for a tender finale.