At half past eight on Wednesday night, a procession of stilettos marched through sheets of rain toward the Patriot Center. The flocks of women who had come to George Mason University’s campus in selfie-ready attire despite the weather were there to find their Romeo.
As soon as he arrived, in stunner shades and a powder blue cape, Romeo Santos, king of bachata, was king of the Romeos. He delivered a theatrically passionate performance. Over a few hours, he strode and strutted in circles around his stage, dripping romance into thousands of imaginations.
Santos, who is Dominican American, grew up listening to Latin music and hip-hop in the Bronx. When he was 16, he formed the group Aventura with a cousin and a couple of friends; the group would become massively successful with Latin American audiences over the next couple of decades. Now he’s 32 and in the midst of a star-making solo career, bringing a pop-infused brand of bachata, a form of music that originated in the Dominican Republic, to sold-out arenas across the country.
Like most of his recordings, the majority of Wednesday’s show was in Spanish. But even if there were any non-Spanish speakers in the crowd, they wouldn’t have had much trouble figuring what the singer was getting at. As the words “sensual,” “besos,” “baby” and “romance” took shape and then shattered on big screens behind him, Santos was making advances onto his mike stand. Sliding across the background were gold-framed portraits of the main attraction; in some, he was making heart shapes with his hands. The crowd roared with delight.
In fact, “roared” doesn’t begin to describe the reaction. The high-pitched cries coming from the stands in the Patriot Center could make eardrums hum for days. They rose and fell in a fittingly dramatic fashion, hanging on the whims of Santos’s hips.
When Santos peppered kisses onto the neck of a young lady pulled from the audience, the crowd swooned. When he begged his guitar player to “make love” to his instrument, they squealed. No matter the move — wink, smirk, smile or swerve — the men and women at the arena showed their adoration in spades.
Santos, on the other hand, made it clear that he was there only for the ladies. “Ladies, don’t bring your men to Romeo concerts,” he said into his golden microphone. It was cartoonish, the way he professed his love for love — in front of a screen of roses, under a pink spotlight and with an audience member’s bra hanging off his right shoulder.
Santos doesn’t have the most powerful set of pipes. His delivery sounded a bit pinched, but it was controlled and confident atop a vibrant 13-piece band. His star power, on the other hand, was strong enough to light up the arena. It was enough to get couples dancing chest to chest in the aisles and imagine a romance worthy of the name Romeo.
Yenigun is a freelance writer.