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.
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