Mega Summer Concert At Madison Square Garden, Thursday, August 24th, 2017, Reviewed
The rock in rock nyc doesn’t refer to rock and roll but to the hard as rock beats that are New York City: we live our lives to hip hop and reggaeton, black and Latin American pop rule us. When it comes to current Latin American pop, New York City is the second city. Everybody is from Puerto Rico but living here (or moving between the two) though a shout of “Santo Domingo” by J Alvarez Thursday night at radio station Mega 97.9’s Summer Concert, he had a point but it was still New York’s city to win or lose.
My own infatuation with Latin American pop began in the mid-1990s when I would augment my CD collection with bootlegs picked up off the street at five dollars a pop and began to add Salsa and Merengue compiliations, soon graduated to complete albums by artists, and finally attending Ralph Mercado produced Labor Day concerts at MSG. I got lucky, not only catching up and comers like Marc Anthony, next generation merengue Milly Quezada and Elvis Crespo, Grupo Mania, but legends Celia Cruz and Tito Puente. I was around for Don Omar’s and Daddy Yankee’s birth of reggaeton (hip hop productions on top of salsa beats and Latin pop melodies), and the passing of Ralph Mercado in 2009. I never stopped listening, and reviewing, Latin American pop though it took Bad Bunny and the birth of Latin trap to really grab my attention.
Thursday night’s show at MSG was a nonstop cavalcade of (for some strange reason) all male pop stars, I watched nine in three hours before skipping Don Omar and Fat Joe (who I’d seen last year). Deep into the tech of it all, the stage had two turntables and DJs, spinning and scratching beat and mostly programing beats for one Latin Trap or Reggaeton star after another, this was the state of Latin pop, where the duo Archangel and De La Ghetto reform for the night to celebrate their heading out of the Puerto Rican underground to become a force in Reggaeton. The King of Latin Trap, Bad Bunny joined them. Bad Bunny hasn’t even released his first album yet but he is a force on the Latin American scene and reshaping what reggaeton will sound like in 2018.
Without stage setups to worry about, the concert was a fast paced all stars all hits bright spotlight on today’s biggest sounds. Five fifteen minutes or less sets, followed by 45 minutes for the reunion, 20 minutes for J. Alvarez and 30 minutes for Wisin. There wasn’t enough time to do anything but watch the audience go crazy with one arriveste after another, proving they absolutely do belong. The sound was immaculate, MSG is so mercurial in its soundsystem, while substantially better then any outdoor shed, and, since its renovation in 2013, it has the best sound of any arena. But even that can’t help it on the more bass oriented hip hop shows, in Trap en Español bass takes second place to beats.
While leads us to opener , the Dominican Republic’s rapper El Alfa who gave the most interesting performance of the evening, a metallic rap and trap take filled with rapping and singalong choruses. Noriel, one of the biggest names, has a big sound Latin pop that delves effortless into trap, and his buddy Bryant Myers followed that. Between the first three acts they have a combined five years in the business. The first song to bring the roof down was Bryant’s featured verse on Archangel’s “Po’ encima” (punchline: “Who got the keys to my bma?” – speaking of which, where do I sign up for that Missy Elliott statue?), this set was better than Pitbull at the same venture and around a tenth as long. Jory Boy completed his amicable split with Nova, and has two smashes since then, “Quédate Conmigo” and “Por Qué Cambiar,” both of which he performed. Alexis & Fido are Reggaeton stars, Fido and Yandel (late of Yandel and Wisin) were friends as teenagers in the entirely inbred Puerto Rican scene. Poppier than we were used to so far, the sound dovetailed to a systematic use of samples, and singalong choruses.
The grand reunion of Archangel and De La Ghetto set the stage for a 45 minute mini-concert, which seemed to ebb and flow through old school hits like the 2007 “Aparentemente” and current songs like last years “Tu No Vive Asi” and this years “Me Mata”. Both with Bad Bunny, who came out to screams of adoration before snapping “turn up the fucking bass” and bringing the entire evening to whole other levels of energy. On record, Bad Bunny has a dark trap sound, I dubbed him Latin pop’s “Drake” though the 23 year year old is nearly young enough to be Drake’s son, on stage he is a live wire. J Alvarez, another son of Puerto Rico, has more rap in his DNA than most. Wisin, an old school new school reggaeton superstar who, like everybody else in the lineup, brought nothing but hits and shout outs to Latin America. “Vacaciones” was terrific.
I left past 11pm during Alex Sensation’s DJ spot well satisfied by this trial by fire meeting with the top Reggaeton and Latin Trap performers, almost a reaction to the sweeter by far Bachata sounds specialized by Aventura but around since the 1950s (Luis Fonsi’s Latin pop is a freak accident – though note Daddy Yankee is on the track), it has a lot of the attitude of hip hop though more about dancing and fucking than raping and pillaging. It was a good evening any way, everybody I saw was excellent, the lot of them. But Bad Bunny is gonna break very big very soon. If you weren’t in Puerto Rico, New York City was the next best thing Thursday night.