Watching the chart positions and hearing the songs of Latin pop cut into the mainstream these past months has been a marvel in itself. But the frenetics of fans huddling up to connect with each other and the artists behind these songs makes for one of the most electric, gripping phenomenons in recent music history.
J Balvin delivered that to Orange County Friday two times, after an overwhelming sell out for the initial stand alone show. Shrieks shot through the Observatory as the Colombian heartthrob took the stage in an oversized white coat and the coolest of shades. Possessing the potential to rock or shake up the star, the energy seemed to bead up and roll off of Balvin who composed himself with the cool of Kobe Bryant amid a 50-point game. He leaned into fans’ kisses like Michael Jackson in “Smooth Criminal” and seemed to hardly break a sweat as he ran through songs that heat up club dance floors around the world.
Backed by four dancers, Balvin allowed them to do the bulk moving to the tracks. Perhaps it was an act of public service, as every time he fell into sync with the dancers for an eight-count of nonchalant moves, shrill screams beamed to the stage. His Elvis-paced salsa step to “Hey Ma” led to ruptured ear drums and jolts of adrenaline through the body.
Fans raised phone lights to the stage, giving Balvin’s face extra glow, without being prompted — as is the norm at most other shows. Guys, heavily outnumbered by the women in the audience, sang along word-for-word to every tracks like “Otra Vez” and “Snapchat,” while the mujeres screamed-along throughout the show.
Colombian flags sailed gracefully over the hot wind emitted by the crowd and it appeared every eye stayed fixed, steadfast on Balvin for the duration of his 75-minute set — save for a portion of the show when a phenomenon that almost mirrored the rise of Latin music this year exploded through the venue. While flags sailed, people sang, and some danced, a black bra flew from the right balcony. Balvin, ever cool, continued rocking.
A second bra flew from the same area seconds, taking the fans off their pivot. Now Balvin was forced to react, picking up the pair of brassieres and holding them out for the crowd to see. He wore a smirk on his face and said nothing.
“Balvin! Balvin! Balvin!” chanted the crowd.
As Balvin went back into this set, another bra flew from elsewhere in the venue, then the pit, the from far back by the sound booth. The bras on stage soon became innumerable and during his next break, Balvin gathered them all racked them on his arm.
Another “Balvin!” chant started off. Just outside the pit, one could spot a woman fidgeting, struggling to pull her bra from under a tan shirt as tribute to Balvin. He awaited her liberation and started back into his set. Seconds later a pair of panties flew from the balcony. This was Rock ‘n Roll.
Minutes later Balvin walked off stage. He couldn’t have made it past his band before fans rang out calling for an encore.
“Otra! Otra! Otra!…” they bellowed in unison.
J Balvin emerged and went into “Ginza,” allowing fans to go at the pre-chorus a cappella before joining them for the hook. And when it seemed the venue had reached its apex, the warning horns of “Mi Gente” sounded. Lights went from cool, blue colors to warm reds and oranges. It was the moment we had all been waiting on. The song came and went in what seemed like a blip, though. The show felt similar. It seemed just seconds ago Balvin had first taken the stage in his white coat. Where had the time gone?
Balvin walked back off as “Mi Gente” wound down but it’s almost as if fans didn’t notice, they held on to the song, as they had for months leading up the live show. They sang their hearts out.
Then the track reset. It was “Mi Gente” otra vez. This time the Beyoncé remix. Fans fell back into a groove as the culmination of the Latin American summer became clear. One of the biggest names in Pop Music had latched on for a second time (following Bieber hopping on the “Despacito” remix).
House lights came on but fans stayed still. No one was ready to leave. They waited and sang, silent when the Beyoncé lyrics that hadn’t yet learned played, but still present. And only when they were sure not another sound was coming out of the speakers did the crowd begin filing out.
It was a feeling all music fans should experience and one other contemporary music scenes are unable to deliver.
I listen to music. I write about it. I like hot sauce on my chicken.