His salsa, yes

her pop, so-so

His salsa outpops her pop

Music Review

October 08, 2007|By Sean Patrick Norris | Sean Patrick Norris,Sun Reporter

WASHINGTON -- It was a packed house Friday night at the Verizon Center, but co-headliners Jennifer Lopez and husband Marc Anthony were definitely playing to differing sensibilities - with Anthony the more energetic, and energizing, of the two.

As if shot from a cannon, the horns and multifaceted percussion lay complex salsa rhythms to introduce Anthony, who charmed the screaming crowd as he arose from underneath center stage, enveloped in smoke.

"Ave Maria!" he said. "You all look beautiful." Fans immediately got to dancing, making their seats about as useful as Anthony's dress shirt - which was buttoned twice at most. In aviator sunglasses, a large silver necklace and a gray suit, he strutted the stage in rhythm with his limber voice.

Many in the United States know Anthony for his self-titled 1999 album, and though he exercised his vocals well on the recording, it blended in with many other "Latin Explosion" recordings of the time. But in Puerto Rico and in salsa circles, he is well known for several highly respected salsa albums.

On Friday night, his set was dominated by salsa tunes, such as "Aguanile," though he worked in pop tracks such as "I Need to Know" and "You Sang to Me."

The mood downshifted during Lopez's set, as a smaller band played such pop hits as "If You Had My Love," "Waiting for Tonight," "My Love Don't Cost a Thing" and "Jenny from the Block." The performance relied heavily on pyrotechnics, lighting and choreographed dancers. The crowd sat or swayed and sang along with the tunes, but the end of the set seemed to drag, with some fans leaving. Though Lopez released her first album eight years ago, she sheepishly told the crowd, "This is my first tour."

Lopez did little to put tabloid rumors of pregnancy to rest: All four of her dresses were empire-waisted, and she didn't match her dancers in the complex dance routines she is known for.

With a set-closing "Let's Get Loud" that evoked the Miami Sound Machine - fireworks, confetti, blinding lights and, finally, fans dancing - Lopez's show clearly was tailored to the big arena. Her inexperience was obvious when compared with her husband's charisma and vigor. Anthony's performance would have been electric whether in the Verizon Center or on the corner of Seventh and F. This was in juxtaposition to Lopez's gilt-pop urban-themed repertoire, which lacked relevance in today's constantly shifting pop sphere.

This may be why the crowd was less interested in her hits of five and six years ago than his continuance of the salsa tradition.

The couple returned for an encore of love ballads with few stage tricks. Audience members were supportive of both - "I'm here for both of them; they bring a lot of energy together," said fan Chris Kelly. "I've seen Marc Anthony alone, and it's not the same."

But traditionalists favored Anthony's no-nonsense salsa over Lopez's modern pop-arena show. "I'm a salsa queen. The ballads are nice and beautiful, but he is replacing [salsa great] Hector Lavoe," said Carmen Nunez.

"Young people today are now more into hip-hop, and we need more people to carry on salsa music. Marc Anthony is doing it."

sean.norris@baltsun.com

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