Concert review: Ricky Martin smolders at Philips Arena

BY MELISSA RUGGIERI

This weekend, Ricky Martin will end his “One World Tour,” which has kept him circling the globe intermittently for more than a year.

That Martin and his mega-troupe of dancers and band members are still pouring so much sweat and emotion into a nearly two-hour show is testament to his commitment to performing.

It’s easy to coast when you’re an international superstar. Martin, however, wouldn’t even know how to perform half-heartedly.

At Philips Arena on Thursday, the achingly handsome Puerto Rican singer belied his 43 years and stayed in perfect lock-step with his eight dancers for the majority of his nearly two-hour concert.

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Somehow looking simultaneously perfectly polished and sexily tousled, Martin whirled around the stage during the opening “Mr. Put it Down” and “This is Good, nailing the latter’s final refrain of “so good to be alive” with the kind of passion that can’t be feigned.

Many acts employ an entourage to mask their limitations. Not so Martin. Yes, the eye-candy dancers (male and female) and sassy nine-piece band provided obvious segue material while Martin scampered off stage for a clothing change, but he always engaged in the heavy lifting.

Whether singing in English or Spanish – an admirable skill he has perfected – Martin knows how to sell a song. An arched eyebrow, an adorable squint, a sweeping arm gesture – all were in play whether it was during the filled-with-regret ballad “Tal Vez” or the glossy pop-rocker “Come with Me.”

“Try to forget about all of the issues in life. Be yourself tonight,” Martin said early in the show as he grinned and clapped at the audience’s fervent response to his mere presence. “Allow yourself to feel – that’s what I’m here for. I’m going to leave my soul on the stage tonight.”

His Spanish-language fans exuberantly sang along with “Adrenalina,” with many in the crowd pumping Puerto Rican flags skyward, and responded with swoons as he stood barefoot and in a long, white shirt during “Disparo al Corazón” (like most multi-lingual singers, Martin always sounded the most heartfelt and natural in his native tongue).

Martin graduated from Menudo heartthrob to a true Mr. Worldwide in the span of a decade and he hasn’t abandoned his affection for the crossover hits that have made him a very wealthy man.

A simple backbeat introduced “Livin’ La Vida Loca” – and then out rolled Martin atop a convertible Mustang, all Elvis-like hip swivels and smoldering eyes as he bopped through the insanely catchy song that is now part of the pop culture lexicon.

Much to the delight of the crowd – an attentive lot (except for the guy who spent the entire concert playing Candy Crush on his phone) equally divided between men and women – Martin shook his bon-bon during that percussive pop bauble from 1999.

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

Credit: Melissa Ruggieri

He also recast “She Bangs” into a sticky, sleazy slice of rock, his tenor voice dropping deep and dramatic as he writhed under a haze of red lights and pointed to a pair of scantily clad female dancers who looked like extras from a Motley Crue video.

“Vuelve,” the title track from Martin’s 1998 album, found the charismatic singer casually sauntering the stage as fans joined in a mass singalong, while “Adios” and his show-closing “The Cup of Life/La Copa de la Vida” brought some Broadway razzle-dazzle to his production.

Martin staged this tour in support of his 10th studio album, "A Quien Quiera Escuchar," which translates to, "to those who want to listen." Even after spending 100 minutes with him in an arena, all we can say to that is, absolutamente.

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CHECK OUT OUR PHOTO GALLERY OF RICKY FROM THE ATLANTA CONCERT.