They could have just called it The Beautiful People Tour.
Or for a moment, it could have been the “American Idol” Reunion Tour, since Dunwoody native Ryan Seacrest bopped out onstage at the start of the evening to announce a new radio station in the market (my colleague Rodney Ho has the scoop here).
But if you came to Philips Arena Wednesday night as a fan of just one of the co-headliners – Jennifer Lopez or Enrique Iglesias – there’s a good chance you left as a convert of both.
For a collective three hours – with a 20-minute set change between acts – Iglesias and Lopez demonstrated that while neither is more than an adequate singer, they both possess scads of other proficiencies to make up for the deficits.
Iglesias was up first and immediately began his trademark move of pogoing around the stage for the opening “Tonight (I’m Lovin’ You),” which detoured briefly into the profane version of the song.
In his jeans, tight black T-shirt and omnipresent baseball cap, Iglesias looked like a handsome frat boy, and emitted a down-to-earth vibe throughout his show.
Backed by a seven-piece band and one backup singer, Iglesias attacked his lightweight pop songs with a sense of joy. His music has always had one foot in the clubs and the other in INXS circa 1982, and his affection for synth pop was boldly unfurled during “I Like How it Feels” and “Be with You,” which even nodded to Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World” during the song’s intro.
Iglesias’ roots were present, too, in the flamenco guitar that ushered in the creamy, romantic ballad “Bailamos,” and during “No Me Digas Que No.”
Throughout the 75-minute set, Iglesias frequently raced around the stage – which was offset by a series of sleek, curved video screens and a ramp – but also delved into the crowd a few times…and somehow emerged fully clothed.
Though his voice is a bit thin and reedy, his charisma and likeability is limitless, and he wisely put his low-key charm on display twice – first by inviting a trio of guys onstage to chug rum and eventually sing a sweet (though long) version of “Stand By Me” and during the encore, performed at the back of the arena, when he sent thousands of hearts swooning with “Hero,” which he crooned to an overwhelmed female fan on whom he planted several kisses.
But obviously this set had to end on a feverish note, which it did.
“I Like It” featured green lasers slicing through the crowd and dozens of giant white balloons emblazoned with his initials falling from the rafters; Iglesias then reprised “Tonight (I’m Lovin’ You)” in its parental-guidance-suggested form, and received an assist from surprise guest Ludacris, who popped up onstage in a natty suit to deliver a fiery rap.
It was a suitable ending to keep the crowd – which mostly filled the arena, with some pockets of empty seats in the upper level – pumped for Lopez’s spectacle, which began at about 10:15 p.m. with a cadre of top-hatted men with canes dancing in a Busby Berkeley-inspired opening.
“Hello, lovers,” Lopez purred a few minutes later, arriving from a platform beneath the stage.
Anyone who has seen any Lopez performance knows she’s an incredible dancer, and she immediately pushed those skills to the forefront with a nifty cane routine performed in her sequined, form-enhancing body suit (is there a magic portal that could make us all look like Lopez? Please?).
Oh, she was also singing “Get Right,” but between the awesome dance moves, wind machines and puffs of dry ice and fire, who was paying attention? Lopez’s two backup singers seemed to take on the heavy lifting during the uptempo songs, but really, is anyone going to a J. Lo show for a display of vocal prowess?
That said, she can sing, best evidenced during her mid-set tribute to Selena, whom she portrayed in the 1997 film named for the Tejano singer. With a heartfelt introduction (prefaced by noting that Mary J. Blige, who performed at Chastain Tuesday night, was in the house), Lopez sang “No Me Queda Mas” beautifully, her red cape billowing behind her for extra effect.
But, prior to that, she mostly impressed with her exceedingly graceful dance moves, her enviable curves making all of her movements super-hot.
Lopez’s six-piece band turned out crisp, funkified versions of “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” and the fizzy club banger “Waiting for Tonight,” one of her first hits from 1999, as she and a couple of female dancers cavorted around, but not on, a stripper pole-like apparatus.
Unlike Iglesias’ bachelor pad-type set, Lopez’s was a Cher-worthy production, with a boxing ring set up for “Goin’ In,” male dancers who happily shed their shirts for “Papi,” and her own handful of costume and set changes, such as the one that returned Jenny to the block.
Wearing a sparkly halter top and matching pants that spotlighted her abs, Lopez donned a New York Yankees baseball cap and joked that wearing it in certain cities, “like Boston,” gets her in trouble.
But there is no removing the Bronx from the girl, who paid tribute with a set featuring a schoolyard fence and lounge chairs to represent her street upbringing, and rolled through portions of “I’m Real,” “All I Have” and “Ain’t It Funny,” before the obvious “Jenny from the Block.”
No doubt Lopez likes to have fun onstage, and she indulged her Latino fans with a fierce version of “Let’s Get Loud,” the Gloria Estefan castoff she’s made her own. In a sequined shirt and fedora, Lopez began the song banging on a conga, and throughout the salsa-infused sizzler, showcased her ballroom dancing skills.
While some of her hits, such as “On the Floor,” are little more than a slamming beat and repetitive lyrics, when done well they serve their purpose as mindless entertainment imploring listeners to “put your drinks up.”
Some nights, that’s good enough.
(For more photos from last night’s show, check out our gallery.)