With Tego Calderón's El Abayarde album selling more than 350,000 copies, mainstream recognition for reggaetón — a Spanish-language blend of hip-hop, salsa and dancehall reggae — may not be far away. The non-profit AIDS-awareness organization LIFEbeat utilized the genre's popularity at its third Hearts & Voices AIDS Benefit Concert at the New York nightclub Spirit on Thursday night, presenting reggaetón heavyweight Tego Calderón and Dominican boy band Aventura as headliners.
Aventura, accompanied by a seven-piece band, took the stage first amid screams and flying undergarments. Fusing R&B and hip-hop with the Dominican style of bachata, the four singers crooned and swooned through a 30-minute set. Belting out primarily uptempo songs like "Hermanita" and "Cuando Volveras," the group paused the show to pull a female fan from the audience, and then danced with her (rather lewdly). Ending their set with a nod to the evening's message, lead singer Anthony Santos exclaimed, "Sex is the best sh-- — but it's not worth dying for. Latinos, I love you!"
Short sets from acts including MP3, Sucio and Solito followed, but were often interrupted by shouts of "Tego! Tego! Tego!"
Finally, reggaetón's lackadaisical superstar took the stage, with his trademark sunglasses and his afro squeezing out of his fitted Yankees cap. With a mischievous smile, the veteran tore through songs like "Aballarde" and "Bailalo Como Tu Quieras," walking slowly across the stage surrounded by an entourage that grew larger and larger as the set went on. Ironically donning a track jacket that read "Jamaica," the Puerto Rican star pulled a fan onstage and took a slug from her bottle of Hennessy as she shook uncontrollably from either nerves or excitement.
Meanwhile, Calderón finished off the set by rhyming over his remixes of Terror Squad's "Lean Back" and 50 Cent's "Pimp," and attempted (unsuccessfully) to crowd surf. Instead, the fans pulled him down while he let loose his trademark cackle, made famous on "Lean Back."
According to LIFEbeat Executive Director John Cannelli, the Latino community was the focus of this year's concert because Latinos represent 19 percent of newly diagnosed AIDS cases in the U.S., while they comprise 14 percent of the population.
Past participants in the Hearts & Voices concert series include Kanye West, Young Gunz, Memphis Bleek, State Property and Mario Winans.