Enrique Iglesias Delivers A Candid, Rugged Musical Valentine In New York

Even unwilling boyfriends succumb to crossover pop star's suave moves.

NEW YORK CITY — It may be the single night of the year
most men would even consider being seen at an Enrique Iglesias concert,
but on this Valentine’s Day, one would have been hard-pressed to tell
who among the droves of boyfriends in the capacity crowd at Radio City
Music Hall had been dragged unwillingly. From the moment the Latin
heartthrob took the stage, with Valentine’s Day wishes and exhortations
to “get drunk and have fun,” his trademark sex appeal became the
backdrop for a more candid, rugged and surprisingly funny Enrique than
might have been expected, one who seemed to win over the audience’s
male holdouts immediately.

That doesn’t mean he left his hot bod behind, of course. Clad in
distressed leather pants, knit cap and a tight white T-shirt he would
later replace with a hyperventilation-inducing wife-beater, Iglesias
was nothing if not sexy. Something subtle about tonight’s brilliant
smile and distant gaze, however, made the pop star more palatable to
his diverse audience. Besides the usual young girls, in impossibly
small tops and jeans better suited for Malibu than Manhattan in the
winter, women and men of all ages filled the hall.

Iglesias’ performance reflected this. After lively renditions of “One
Night Stand,” from 2001′s Escape, and “Bailamos” and “Rhythm
Divine” from Iglesias’ breakout English-language debut, Enrique,
he launched into a titillating version of “Could I Have This Kiss
Forever” with a backup singer whose Shakira-esque gyrations almost
overshadowed her incredible voice. The video-screen close-up of
Iglesias’ hand on the woman’s hindquarters sent many an emboldened date
to his feet, and couples all over could be seen swaying to the ballad.
By the time the onstage couple dropped to the ground, with Iglesias
singing above the woman seductively, the hot-and-bothered audience’s
clamor had reached the upper registers.

Iglesias’ ability to focus his emotional energy into intense, seemingly
personal moments like these — an inherited talent, father Julio’s
fans would say — played particularly well. Even with his voice
reverberating off the walls and fans screaming his name, he still
appeared to whisper to his girl, enraptured. Even when the Madrid
native sat down to sing some of the earnest Spanish songs he’d written
in his teens (following a “set change” that consisted of bringing out
what he called the “ugliest couch” his team could find), the many
listeners either unfamiliar with the ballads, or deficient in Spanish,
stuck with him.

When Iglesias called two couples (“40 and up,” at his request) onstage,
it felt like an intimate private party. His borderline-shy reminiscing,
recurring offers of “beer, whiskey, wine,” and nearly constant banter
(“Are you going to get married?”) contributed to the atmosphere. He
sang “Por Amarte,” off his 1995 Spanish-language debut, and, after an
attempt to translate it for the English-speaking couples, abashedly
relented on the grounds that it “sounds stupid.” He rounded out the
boyishly self-conscious interlude with Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on
Heaven’s Door,” which he said he played “over and over” when he moved
to Miami from Madrid at the age of seven, and which he sang with a
sincerity inherent to childhood.

Nearly an hour and a half after Iglesias took the stage, the crowd was
primed for the hard-dancing, fist-pumping sing-along that has become a
staple of pop-concert encores. And Iglesias, the pop world’s Chris
Isaak-meets-Axl Rose, didn’t disappoint. “Not in Love,” the energetic
new single from his current album, Seven, got the girls
screaming again. Giving them what they wanted, Iglesias sang his
heartfelt hit “Hero,” from 2003′s Escape, to Nora, a visiting
Vietnamese girl whose hands he grabbed midsong and placed squarely on
his storied rear end, to the audible delight of all. “Be With You” and,
appropriately, Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough” closed the
festivities in a flurry of white confetti as Iglesias jumped around and
enthusiastically ran up and down random fixtures, urging everyone from
the balconies to the front row to get loud and give him more.

Amid the chaos, one boyfriend could be heard apparently recanting
earlier statements, declaring, “This was a f—ing great idea!” That
seemed the prevailing sentiment. As exhausted, satisfied Enrique fans
spilled out onto the cold New York streets, one got the sense the night
was far from over. One rapidly growing group continued the evening’s
revelries outside Iglesias’ buses, waiting to greet the stuff of sweet
adolescent dreams himself.

For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out
MTV News Tour Reports.