If Ricky Martin stands for sex, Marc Anthony represents love, and we all know which lasts longer. Sure, skin sells, but it's time to forget about the smiling Martin and his commercialized salsa, Vegas glitz, and much-hyped arena tour that came through town last fall. Martin might be trendy, but Anthony is the real Latin lover. Last Thursday night at the beautifully refurbished Allen Theatre, Anthony, a 20-plus-member-salsa band, and a sold-out, bilingual crowd proved the key ingredient missing in Martin's act -- integrity.
A driving percussion beat, island melodies, and a searing horn section gave the casually dressed Anthony plenty of room to offer his emotional ballads and heartfelt expressions of love. With upraised hands and grimacing facial features, the diminutive, smooth-skinned singer split his set between older material, sung all in Spanish, and his latest, breakthrough self-titled disc, predominantly sung in English. While there were very few solos from the band -- an acoustic, almost flamenco-sounding guitar solo featured an unlikely and somewhat humorous guitar-behind-the-head solo, à la Hendrix -- Anthony gave the spotlight over to his band numerous times in the form of extended jams. Granted, Latin music is known more for its energy than its diverse sounds/styles, but the drawn-out endings put the audience into a frenzy and, more importantly, gave the music a degree of stand-alone credibility.
"You Sang to Me," "Don't Let Me Leave," and "Hasta Que te Conoci" showed Anthony's ability to play both slow love songs and pure pop fodder. The crazed audience, clearly familiar with Anthony's catalog, effortlessly sang along, swaying to the beat. Unlike most shows, where dancing in the aisles is frowned upon, this gregarious crowd took it upon itself to shake its bon-bon wherever and whenever possible, adding to the atmosphere and creating quite the fire hazard. The evening came to a close with an ocean of fans waving Puerto Rican flags as Anthony sang his hit "I Need to Know." As far as the Latin sound is concerned, we now know who's going to be livin' la vida loca for the long haul.