Chicago Theatre Chicago, IL
Feb. 2, 2006
Story and Photos By Andy Argyrakis
The explosion of Latin flavored pop music into the
mainstream has been simmering as of late and even
Jennifer Lopez and her rotating door of fiances can't
keep the flame flickering as brightly as it once did.
With that in mind, the prospect of a major commercial
comeback for Ricky Martin isn't exactly protruding the
radar of music industry priority lists, nor is he ever
likely to ever reach the heights of his self-titled
American debut disc and the "Livin' la Vida Loca"
phase. As a result, it's understandable why he took a
several thousand seat step down from the United Center
to the Chicago Theatre for his latest windy city
visit, which was made in support of last fall's Life
CD. Although the disc has been a dud on the charts and
airwaves in comparison to past projects, it's still
been met with enough interest to sell out the venue
expediently and give Martin yet another crack at
reclaiming old glory.
Though he tried gallantly throughout a briskly paced
two hour show- complete with a ten person entourage,
sensory striking light show and video screens on full
tilt- he still fell several steps short. The problem
was three fold- first his lackluster material on Life,
then corniness of past singles that didn't catch wind
even with revamped arrangements and lastly a somewhat
weak voice when it came to ballad belting. In terms of
the new tracks, Martin tried to be something to
everyone and as a result hasn't been able to come
across with individuality. Songs like "It's Alright,"
"This Is Good" and "I Don't Care" straddled the lines
between urban and reggae beats, but all seemed forced
and lacked the immediacy needed for radio domination.
More familiar staples were given a slight facelift by
his backers, but even with tribal tweaking, cuts like
"She Bangs" and "Loaded" couldn't even hold up a mere
few years after their initial releases. Perhaps it's
because they were annoying from the get go or maybe
because they were so overly hyped back then that
audiences have long grown tired of them. The same
could be said to a lesser degree about "Livin' la Vida
Loca," though it seemed to hold a special place in the
hearts of attendees given the fact it was his first
breakthrough on these shores.
Unfortunately, moving into ballad territory didn't
afford Martin any praises either, but rather
spotlighted his limited range. "She's All I Ever Had"
appeared bland and nowhere near the more moving
context of Jon Secada's version (who also was a
co-writer on the track). His treatment of The Hooters'
"Private Emotion" was also unflattering and a strange
choice considering it wasn't all that hot the first
time around. But nonetheless it was something
obligatory after soaring as a single and being played
at every prom on the planet.
To Martin's credit, he left out the horrendous "Shake
Your Bon-Bon" and covered all his major career bases,
including several Spanish language songs that truly
sizzled with a potent brass section and ethnic
excitement. He also appeared incredibly enthusiastic
at times and danced like crazy, especially during
"Marķa" and "The Cup of Life." The heartthrob was also
a hit with the ladies, giving them his signature
smiles and winks, while his band and background
singers were top notch and well versed in their
crafts. It's obvious that with these qualities Martin
has entertaining abilities, though his other missteps
indicate a full blown career revival is highly
unlikely. In order for the odds to increase, he'll
need to craft a more suitable and all around enjoyable
album where he doesn't try to bounce all over the map
or reclaim past glories, but truly embody what's in
his soul. It still may not translate to renewed
superstardom, but at least he'd gain more artistic
credibility and critical respect along the way.
Here's Your Chance
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