The traffic jam on the highway that surrounds the city was monumental. The entrances to the stadium, an anthill of cars from whose stereos only New York salsa sounded. There were police on the corners and roundabouts leading the collapse caused by thousands of spectators from all the neighborhoods and cities of the metropolitan area. The scene could be reminiscent of the great nights lived at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx when the Fania All Stars, Aventura or any other idol of Latin music caused floods and floods of fans.
The decor was very different. The collapsed highway was the Ronda de Dalt in Barcelona at the height of Cornellà and the sports arena, the RCDE Stadium where the Spanish play. The queues at the different access doors, endless. Despair growing. It was already time for the start of the concert and from inside, the disc jockey calmed down the masses with ‘La vida es un carnival’ by Celia Cruz (okay) and ‘Sufre mamón’ by Hombres G (that was ugly). It did not matter; all the complaints and heat would go down in history as soon as Marc Anthony went on stage. Because he is the story. Living history of salsa. And because the first song of the night was going to be, of course, ‘Valió la pena’. Namely: “It was worth what it took to be with you love: you are a blessing.”
Marc Anthony came out with everything. Fifteen musicians dressed in black (some with a mask) who would not leave the stage for almost two hours. With all that and nothing else. Neither pyrotechnics, nor confetti, nor catwalks nor videos. The giant screens played close-ups of the singer so they could inspect all the tattoos on his chest and arms and check, too, how he used his facial muscles to project his voice. Beyond some occasional image, totally irrelevant, the special effects of the concert would be his own voice and his sweat falling from his forehead. The effects would be those five trombonists and trumpeters who reared the choruses with their hurricane winds. The effects would be those three tropically synchronized percussionists so that the rhythmic tapestry would be unstoppable. The effects would be those two Praetorian choristers reinforcing the orders of a Marco Antonio who directed the orchestra like a relentless salsa squad. Music, music and only music.
Wild, classic, overwhelming and flexible
On stage reigned a salsero nuyoricanyes, but ‘And if there was someone’ was played, a classic from 1997, from when salsa was the music least cool of the planet (it was not for nothing that the album was called ‘Against the current’), and you could imagine Raphael performing it. It was romantic and spiteful salsa. Classic and eternal sauce. The most unattainable bestseller of the genre reigned on stage, yes, but ‘Hasta Ayer’ was played (even older; from 1995!), with those verses that seem to be from when it was written with a pen and inkwell (“I was the owner of his bedroom / And from her pillow / I had her kiss by kiss, skin to skin / And the sun surprised me through her window) and Marc Anthony reinvented her once again. He energetically hit the body of the electric guitar so that the guitarist scored a very brave solo while the orchestra tempered a Cuban son pattern. He didn’t have enough and he yelled in the guitarist’s ear to come to the edge of the stage and speed up the fingering while he ordered the orchestra to drop the beat. Minutes of the electrical storm after which the son gozón returned. And the silence. But Marc Anthony gave it another twist, with his vigorous voice, almost a cappella, over a bolero-son skeleton. That interpretation touched the ten minutes. Salsa in its overwhelming, flexible and dialogic conception. Sauce as a weather phenomenon. torrential sauce. Tropical cyclone in the middle of a heat wave.
Titles from different decades fell: ‘Against the current’, ‘Flor pálida’… Versions by Juan Gabriel and José Luis Perales fell; It’s amazing how the whole stadium chants that emotional harakiri known as ‘And who is he?’ in which each question is a deeper stab. Dazzled verses and jealous verses fell that the New Yorker reinforced with impulsive choreographies and gestures implying that the songs hurt him twice as much because they told about his life. Marc Anthony is not a great actor and his performances as a singer are not entirely credible either. But, hey, when he covers his eyes with his heavily tattooed hand and lowers his head with that gesture of I-don’t-want-you-to-see-me-cry, his image of a groundbreaking and broken salsero, scoundrel and fragile wins over. And, of course, the glances he cast towards the side of the stage, where his current partner, the young Paraguayan model Nadia Ferrero, danced and posed, accentuated his condition as a soap opera salsero whose life has filled, fills and will fill pages and pages of gossip magazine. Crazy pages like this one.
Tickets from 60 to 300 euros
The second half of the concert was even more overwhelming. With more spiteful sauce (‘Si te vas’), more sauce delivered to love (‘What price does heaven have?’; no idea, but tickets ranged from 60 to 200 euros and up to 300 if you wanted to have a VIP experience) and more displays by a horn section that hummed disarming highs. Practically ultrasound.
Despite having released one of the most enjoyable albums of his career this year, ‘Pa’llá voy’ hardly has a presence in the tour’s repertoire. Only the impeccable title song, which could have been signed half a century ago by any master of the genre, and ‘Mala’, yet another portrait of those women who empty your bank account and your heart. No, romantic salsa, whose main themes are the celebration of love and overcoming heartbreak through revenge and hatred, are fertile ground for macho victimhood. Good symptom anecdote: ‘Mala’ is their most recent single, but the public continued to chant it even when the band finished playing it. Anecdote of bad symptom. ‘Pa’llá voy’ finished and a crater opened up in the audience. A faint? A lost mobile? A lens? None of that: gastric indisposition and vomiting XL. A curious spectator, knowing what had happened, exclaimed: “I’m not going here!”
Marc Anthony continued to give away verses of poisonous sauce (“Look if I know you well / What would I dare to swear / That you don’t last with him / One more weekend”) and monumental exercises of loving contempt worthy of the greatest romantic interpreters of all the times. And the public, intoning them with the same passion as the sweetest and most enraptured verses. If life is a carnival, and a concert is nothing more than a concentrated carnival, each song can be a costume that the public can put on to play for five minutes the role proposed by each letter, each salsanovela. But everything has its end and when ‘Parencen friday’ was played we had crossed the threshold of midnight; therefore, it was already Saturday. End of the concert.
Live my life lalalala
Marc Anthony came out again for a double encore: ‘Your love does me good’, with the mother of all high notes putting the audience’s tonsils to the test, and the well-known ‘Vivir mi vida’. Confession: this chronicler does not feel any sympathy for this song with airs of a World Cup anthem whose chorus closes in such a lazy way: “I’m going to laugh, I’m going to enjoy myself, live my life, lalalalá”. And nothing against the lalalalás, huh. But seeing so many people singing in unison those mottos of stubborn perseverance (“always forward, don’t look back”) makes you reconsider the usefulness of compositions of this nature. Especially when fans from all walks of life coexisted on the RCD Stadium track: some with the appearance of having a maid at home and some others who may have served in a house. Few current superstars are capable of summoning followers from so many different social classes. In this sense, Marc Anthony’s sauce is also transversal.
“Long live the Latin race!” Proclaimed the salsero before saying goodbye.
Three friends were discussing at the exit of the stadium if those two minutes that Marc Anthony spent looking at the public, fascinated by their receptivity and dedication, were sincere or pure theater. There each one with his conclusions. But it is no less true that filling venues with twenty thousand people after thirty years of career is not within the reach of just anyone. Marc Anthony will never be able to overshadow the great salsa myths of the 70s. But, nowadays, no one can overshadow him in the salsa league of stadiums either. And they are already three decades of reign. Marc Anthony is a titanium salsero.
It was just a salsa concert. Sauce and nothing else. Sauce to the last consequences. Phallocentric sauce. cross sauce. torrential sauce.
Salsa, what extraordinary music. Born of longing (that of the Puerto Ricans who migrated to New York) and with such a vital component. So complex in its forms and yet so easy to get into. A good salsa concert can be one of the most overwhelming musical experiences. Marc Anthony has a dozen performances left in Spain. Santiago, Madrid, Seville, Fuengirola, Mallorca, Oviedo, Valencia, Murcia, Chiclana and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. International superstars no longer do Spanish tours of this caliber. The advance sale indicates that the majority of concerts will be sold out and, according to his record label, Marc Anthony will leave the country having shipped between one hundred and 120 thousand tickets.