Santos Lights Up Sold-Out Yankee Stadium.
Romeo Santos, here performing on Friday night, has worked with celebrities like Drake and Usher, and his weekend shows were considered a conquest of his home borough’s greatest venue. Credit Jacob Blickenstaff for The New York Times
You know the routines by now: Romeo Santos has been doing this for too long. There will be a woman of ample proportions, and Mr. Santos will sing “Un Beso” to her, then kiss her, then encourage her to let her hands roam free on his body. There will be admonishments to the men in the audience about how they aren’t satisfying their women. There will be a microphone stand, parts of the stage and even the air itself that spend long stretches of time on the receiving end of Mr. Santos’s gyrating pelvis.
Just 32 years old, Mr. Santos is an old pro, and on Saturday, he was as relaxed as a man can be performing in front of a sold-out Yankee Stadium for the second night in a row.
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Arena sellouts are routine for the bachata star Romeo Santos.
In the Language of Romance, Romeo Santos Is a True SuperstarJULY 10, 2014
But these are common crowds for him: first with Aventura, the Bronx bachata boy band that he fronted beginning in 1994, and since 2011 as a solo act. In February, he released “Formula, Vol. 2” (Sony Music Latin), his second solo album, which extended his dominance over bachata, the Dominican romantic genre, while inviting outsiders like Drake and Nicki Minaj to the party.
Romeo Santos played two sold-out shows over the weekend at Yankee Stadium. Credit Jacob Blickenstaff for The New York Times
During his three-hour set, he toggled between solo hits and Aventura classics, songs that are linked by themes of endless love, cruel betrayal and sweaty intimacy. At one point, he implored Alvin Medina, his cuatro player, to “make love to this guitar.” (A cuatro is a smallish guitar that contributes to bachata’s signature pleading sound.) Later, he repeated the desire, with stronger language and more pelvis thrusts.
Mr. Santos is a talker, and he often spent almost as long introducing a song as singing it, like on “Eres Mia,” a saucy, almost rude number about maintaining control over a woman, even as she marries someone else. This is the stuff Mr. Santos thrills at. “Por Un Segundo” is about coming to terms with the woman you love marrying another, and “Necio” is about lusting after a taken woman. And Mr. Santos loves a face-off — so much so that on “Ella Y Yo,” about the betrayal of losing your woman to your friend, he brought male fans onstage to sing duets with him. It was an overlong bit — it took six participants to get it right, the losers getting ejected Sandman Sims style — but deliciously effective when it finally worked.
Throughout the night, Mr. Santos’s band was astute and vibrant, though his backup singers had thankless roles, especially the man tasked with singing Usher’s parts on “Promise.” (Also, female backup singer at a Romeo Santos concert can now be classified as among this country’s least essential jobs.)
Over two decades, Mr. Santos has assuredly become a royal, but he hasn’t necessarily been an ambassador. On his last album, he partnered, on “Odio,” with Drake, perhaps the one artist in popular music as obsessed with envy and betrayal as he is. But while Mr. Santos has done an admirable job of bringing other artists into his world, he’s done little to penetrate theirs.So he focuses on his own kingdom. At Friday’s show, he’d paid respect to his elders, ceding the stage to Luis Vargas and Antony Santos, bachateros of an earlier generation. And on Saturday, he brought out Prince Royce, a huge star in his own right, and the only contemporary bachata singer to manage a fraction of Mr. Santos’s success. But here, singing and rapping (off a teleprompter) Drake’s parts on “Odio,” he was like a puppy, trailing Mr. Santos from one side of the stage to the other.
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And there are other things Mr. Santos can’t quite do. His solo albums have lacked some of the vim and cohesion of Aventura’s best work. (See the inessential “Fui a Jamaica.”) He’s strategically pushing the genre at the edges but is still most comfortable at its center, where his falsetto is completely at home.
To wit, on “Yo También,” from the new album, about two men fighting over a woman, he brought out Marc Anthony for a duet. Mr. Anthony is a hard, visceral singer, the polar opposite of Mr. Santos, who rather than challenging him directly, bobbed and weaved, his tender voice dodging Mr. Anthony’s hail of bullets. Mr. Anthony may be a megastar as well, but for this crowd, Mr. Santos was that and also a folk hero there to conquer his home borough’s greatest venue.
In keeping with that idea, near the end of the night, Mr. Santos surprised the crowd by bringing out his former Aventura band mates: Henry Santos, a cousin of Romeo’s, and the brothers Lenny and Max Santos (no relation). The others still perform — Henry as a solo singer, Max and Lenny as part of Vena — though to less acclaim. They had easy chemistry, of course, and even in a night filled with outstanding musicianship, it was notable how nimble a guitarist Lenny is and how aggressive a bass player Max remains.
They did a medley of old hits, from “No Lo Perdona Dios” to “Obsesion,” with Max cajoling the band to play harder, and Romeo and Henry falling back into familiar harmonies and dances. At this point, two and a half hours had gone by, but those in the crowd hadn’t flagged. They knew all the routines, and they were grateful for them.