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Review: Luis Miguel at the Erwin Center

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Ramon Ramirez

Editor’s note: This article was originally published September 26, 2013

Mexican superstar Luis Miguel led nearly 30 Spanish language sing-alongs Wednesday at the Frank Erwin Center in front of 4,200-strong. The 43-year-old singer carried 90 minutes of hits, curating the eras of his 30-plus years as a Latin pop icon.

The historically recluse, stoic singer was instead chatty and warm — somewhat surprising, considering that Luis Miguel has been running through this particular setlist for three straight years. Austin’s date marked his only Central Texas appearance, and concluded this tour’s sixth leg. The Dominican Republic is next, and then Lima, Peru.

Backed by a total of 23 musicians strewn across six risers, Luis Miguel flexed his vocal range almost like an opera singer. The all-black suit, tie, dress shirt garb accented the melodrama. Well removed from his Latin lover-on-the-beach-in-an-open-collar-button-down days, Luis Miguel has matured into a dashing telenovela villain. The “Hits” angle meant oscillating between eras — romantic bolero ballads, homeland-defining mariachi medleys, a cheesy Frank Sinatra cover of “Come Fly With Me” and generous portions of jumpy, horn-infused pop.

Most of Luis Miguel’s career-defining songs date to the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. As a tragic result, massive hits like “Suave” are hindered by their production — horn parts recorded in elevator music-style isolation, Disney-esque sparkles of keys. At Erwin, they popped loudly enough to drown the teen idol screaming.

Just after the third song, “Si Te Vas,” a beaming Luis Miguel began a night-long affair with his patrons, “Si! Si! Si! Muy buenas noches, Austin,” went his greeting, followed by a hearty “clap for my musicians and the cameramen and the workers” in Spanish. He teetered over to his band leader at one point and took requests. He kicked out beach balls and offered white roses to the orchestra section like “The Bachelor.”

Brooding red lights and a blacked out arena recalled Coldplay at their stuffy, circa-2005 heights. The lounge singer digressions were Vegas variety show. But nothing resonated like the Mexican standards. Luis Miguel’s well-traveled cover of Javier Solis’ black and white classic, “Se Te Olvida,” soared with its big vocals and enduring, “scars on our soul” lost love jargon.

Luis Miguel probably should have been a bigger deal in the states. The guy had two Spanish language albums — “Romance” and “Segundo Romance” — certified platinum in the U.S. He was in a relationship with gold record cash cow Mariah Carey. Luis Miguel was in his 20s during the Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez wave of late ‘90s Latin invasion hits. He wasn’t interested in making crossover music in English.

An audience of seemingly relocated, wealthy nationals ate it up. In 2011, cartel violence spilled into Monterrey, Mexico, and since, tens of thousands of affluent Mexicans have pragmatically moved to Central Texas. Fifty-thousand plus live in San Antonio, where “Sonterrey” is a booming ZIP code. This wasn’t lost on Miguel. He may have been born in Puerto Rico to a Spanish father and Italian mother, but his cultural touchstones and mannerisms are decidedly Mexican. He shouted out Mexican flags with emphatic “Viva Mexicos,” showed highlights of Mexico’s Gold Medal-winning, London 2012 Olympic soccer glory on his screens and kept the teenage “fresas” (preppy Mexicans) eating out of his hands like a teen idol.

If there was any doubt about the night’s nationalist loyalties, Luis Miguel threw fastballs with a third act block of mariachis. Joined onstage by 11 mariachis adorned in all-white away kits (complete with iconic sombreros), Luis Miguel pointed the microphone to his fans and let them take the lead on restaurant cuts like “El Rey,” “De Que Manera Te Olvido” and “Cielito Lindo.”

He closed with the fairly bland “Labios de Miel” and it was coupled with confetti. But the night’s real closing number was courtesy of the libations-infused, balladeering paisanos serenading outgoing attendees near the men’s room by the Red River exit.