SAN JOSE — It’s tough to pull off a truly equal co-headlining arena show. You usually get one of two things: The final act hordes all the production tricks, or the first act is allowed to spoil the secrets, making it not as interesting the second time around. So after Enrique Iglesias blew the roof off the SAP Center Sunday night with a moving walkway, lasers, jets of fire, a confetti shower and more, it was remarkable to see Ricky Martin take the stage and perform an equally bombastic set without recreating any of Iglesias’ tricks.
The two Latin music heartthrobs brought a one-two punch that kept the audience on its feet for most of the show, which focused primarily on each artist’s Spanish and English hits.
Enrique Iglesias performed first. The main stage jutted out into the crowd in the front while a second large stage took up the back of the floor. The 46-year-old and about nine band members, including two backing singers, opened with a splash of color as Iglesias was surrounded by large LED screens for 2013 English language pop track “I’m a Freak.” For the following “Chasing the Sun,” he started gliding up and down the catwalk that jutted from the main stage, and it required a careful look to realize that there was an actual track, like a treadmill, transporting him back and forth. This conveyor belt allowed him to glide smoothly and even run in place. The song itself fit perfectly after the opener, which was surprising considering it’s a new tune from September album, FINAL (Vol. 1).
Jets of flame shot up from behind Enrique Iglesias’ band, which performed on a wide lit-up riser, during “I Like How It Feels.” But rather than being used to create a surge of adrenaline or shock the crowd, the fire provided comfort on the melodic, poppy tune. The radiating heat felt like climbing under a warm blanket to watch the show. Iglesias then switched over to some Spanish language songs, starting with “Duele el Corazón,” which incited an arena-wide singalong. One of Iglesias’ band members performed rapped parts (which on record typically belong to someone like Pitbull), including on this tune. This was another new tune.
“Bailamos” was preceded by a dramatic interlude. Enrique Iglesias posed with, hugged and sang to fans in the front after hopping down from the stage. Meanwhile, the band delivered lick after lick of his first English language hit, all the way back in 1999. At this point, Iglesias and most of his band made their way through the crowd to the secondary stage.
“I have one question: Does anybody speak Spanish?” he said to loud applause before the band kicked into “Cuando Me Enamoro.” He sang the ballad feet away from concertgoers in the back of the building.
“I’ve been coming to San Jose since 1995,” he added afterward. “Think about it. I’m an old motherfucker.” He spoke of his love for his fans and his family. Considering he’s been married to Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova, with whom he has three children, we’ll presume the the intimate dance and kiss he appeared to share with a backup singer on the medley of “Loco” and “Me Pasé” (after pouring his band members shots and drinking straight from the bottle) was really believable acting.
He made his way back to the main stage for Latin pop banger “Súbeme la Radio,” which was punctuated by a brief hand drum solo. That led into “Be With You” and “Escape,” also English language hits, replete with lasers and fog cannon blasts. A surprising brief cover of Masked Wolf’s “Astronaut In The Ocean” came next and it would have been great if the band kept going a bit longer with it, but Iglesias had other plans; primarily, a dirty but fun singalong on “Tonight (I’m Fuckin’ You).”
One of his biggest hits, ballad “Hero,” came next, with the crowd happily taking on the chorus itself. The extended cut of the song ended with him on his knees on the secondary stage. Following Latin tune “El Perdón,” he turned up the excitement to 11 for stadium banger “Bailando” and “I Like It.” Cue the confetti and large balloon or beach ball drop from ceiling.
Of course, at this point, the show was only halfway over.
Ricky Martin didn’t use the conveyor belt, lasers, B-stage or confetti cannon. His set relied more on choreographed dancing (his and a team of dancers), drama and costume changes. His band’s multi-tier stage was even taller than Iglesias’ and was split in two by a wide staircase, on top of which he first appeared wearing a black robe and wide-legged pants that showed off his calves. He didn’t waste time, opening with “Livin’ la Vida Loca” as palm-wielding dancers moved around him.
“La Bomba” had an impressive brass section with a saxophonist, trombonist and trumpeter. For the first of numerous times, Martin (49) and his band members showed off some choreographed salsa moves. “Qué Rico Fuera” offered more of the same type of bombast.
“Every time we get on stage we have a chance to just forget the horrible things of the last two years,” Martin said during one of his few times addressing the audience at length. Power ballad “Vuelve” followed, after which Ricky Martin exited through the back of the stage for a costume change while his band played a piercing extended jam. That was followed by drum-carrying dancers performing a martial-style routine that included some cool rope percussion tricks, and a tap routine. Finally, Martin returned, now in black pants and a black vest, for “Lola, Lola.” The song also included female dancers performing a folklorico-inspired dance with shawls.
“She Bangs” was as provocative as the song was when it was first released in 2000. And on “Nobody Wants to Be Lonely,” he duetted with an onscreen, larger-than-life Christina Aguilera. Though his performance lacked some of the more romantic nuance of Iglesias, it stood out on this song, as well as the tender “Tu Recuerdo,” which was highlighted by a fingerpicked acoustic guitar melody.
The back end of the set picked up the pace and mood with uptempo party songs like Puerto Rican plena jam “Pégate,” which had Ricky Martin in a white suit (with a sleeveless jacket) and his dancers in flowing white dresses and suits. That was quickly followed at warp speed with “La Mordidita,” “María” and 2016 tune “Vente Pa’ Ca.”
One advantage Iglesias did have over his tour mate was the quality of the sound mix. His was near album-quality, at least in the lower bowl, while Martin sometimes came through muffled or quieter than his band. Also, the bass-laden percussion bounced off the walls on “Shake Your Bon-Bon” and set closer “The Cup of Life,” which made the two sound somewhat out of sync. It was a minor inconvenience in two full, joyous sets at SAP Center.
Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.