Pitbull and Prince Royce are about halfway through their “Bad Man” tour and it’s a safe guess that they’ve left tens of thousands of palpitating hearts in their wake.
They’re well-matched tour mates, with charisma that appeals to men and women (Prince Royce, with his six-pack and sweet smile, and Pitbull with his suaveness and commanding presence) and music that attracts a global audience - as Mr. Worldwide would gladly verify.
The pair invigorated about 7,500 enthusiastic fans Thursday night at Philips Arena, with well-produced, slick sets that showcased their love of music.
Prince Royce (aka Geoffrey Royce Rojas) is, at 27, an undeniable heartthrob.
Opening his hour-long set with “Stuck on a Feeling,” the playful singer who sported a man bun and a white jacket emblazoned with a gold lion’s head, immediately connected with the many women in the crowd.
He gleefully grabbed his guitarist’s cap and tossed into the sea of grabby hands, kissed a red rose and presented it to a lady admirer and skipped around the stage with his own quartet of female dancers.
Royce alternated between Spanish and English in song and banter, cheekily asking the shrieking crowd, “Are y’all hot in here or is it just me?” as he stripped off his jacket (for his set finale, “Back it Up,” all of his torso was on display).
He invited a male fan on stage to help sing “Stand By Me,” the cover that helped launch his career in 2010, and later sent a female fan into near convulsions when he plucked her from the crowd after offering a sexy snippet of The Weeknd’s “Earned It.”
While Royce could easily cross over into full-fledged pop stardom with his silken vocals and easygoing charm, evidenced on the honeyed ballad “Extraordinary,” he is loyal to his culture as a Bronx-born Dominican, evidenced even better on his engaging bachata hit, “Darte un Beso.”
His spirited performance indeed served as the ideal appetizer to Pitbull.
With Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” playing in the background (the song is heavily identified with “Miami Vice” and Pitbull is a Miami native so it’s all a bit full circle), an abbreviated version of Pitbull’s life story scrolled across the three towering video screens behind the stage.
He’s become the King of Calle Ocho, a first-generation Cuban-American who has built a career on his admirable ability “to turn nothing into something.”
Pitbull (born Armando Christian Perez) isn’t the best-looking guy or the most talented musician.
But he knows how to entertain.
Taking the stage – illuminated so intensely it would make the Las Vegas Strip look subtle by comparison – to “Don’t Stop the Party,” Pitbull was immediately the life of this fiesta.
In his glossy black pants and shirt – this is one guy who knows how to dress with class – Pitbull swiveled his hips across the stage with a pack of female dancers while his five-piece band (heavy on percussion, as it should be) pounded out “International Love.”
His songs are little more than whizzing synthesizers and percolating beats, but he’s selling a package, and it’s one that screams “Fun.” Pitbull preaches inclusion (“Music is what makes us the UNITED States, not the DIVIDED States,” he intoned) and a club banger such as “Hey Baby (Drop it to the Floor)” is so easy to enjoy, even the most un-rhythmic person in the crowd would feel comfortable clapping along.
Pitbull, 35, demonstrated his appreciation of rock music with taut interludes of hits from Guns N’ Roses , Nirvana and Lenny Kravitz, while he again reminded the crowd of his impoverished upbringing and how music was his savior by paying homage to the music he heard at home – The Miami Sound Machine’s “Conga.”
He is, no doubt, a grateful man, and he made sure to note that his earliest success was thanks to Atlanta’s Lil Jon, who produced “Culo,” the lead single from Pitbull’s 2004 debut album, “M.I.A.M.I.” “He was someone who believed in me,” Pitbull said in his gravelly speaking voice of the crunk master.
Pitbull has come a long way – it seems hard to believe that this is his first solo headlining tour – and he’s crafted a bi-lingual show that deftly weaves jabbing-fist anthems (“Rain Over Me”) with songs that reflect his native tongue (“Bon Bon”) with those ubiquitous radio hits (“Fireball,” “Timber”).
Just try to walk out of his show without grinning.