How to Dodge a Linebacker

Photo by Matt OttoJUANES
THE THEATRE AT THE ARROWHEAD POND, ANAHEIM
WED., MAY 4

They say the toughest feat in sports is to catch a football while a linebacker leaps toward your sternum, and the Colombian rockero Juanes would surely agree. About halfway through his sold-out Cuatro de Mayo performance at the sliced-in-half Arrowhead Pond, a hunk of a woman trampled onto the stage and latched onto the diminutive singer's neck. Five beefy security guards tried to wrest the BBW from Juanes, but they couldn't unlock her remora-like grip. Juanes' backup band, bewildered, continued the dark opening bars of "Fíjate Bien" as their leader choked under his admirer's weight. The struggle continued for at least half a minute. Finally, Juanes broke free, offered an embarrassed shrug to the shocked, shrieking audience, and sauntered through the song as if nothing had happened.

That was nearly par for the night: zealous adoration by the largely female crowd that threatened to reduce Juanes' considerable talents to his Samson-esque mane and soulful eyes. Women screamed, fainted and cried throughout the two-hour set, as their men stared grimly ahead. But Juanes wouldn't let these muchachas-gone-wild ruin his artistry. What makes Juanes so essential to Latin America (to the world, even; Time recently named him one of the 100 most influential people on earth) is his stubborn, talented eclecticism, his fusion of serious social commentary with goofy love. He duck-walked at times, bouncing from one side of the stage to another like an escaped cheerleader, or engaging in random hip-swiveling or epic guitar-god solos. His song set veered from a frenetic cover of countryman Joe Arroyo's salsa standard "La Noche" to the defiant political lament of "La Tierra" to oodles of addicting, saccharine dreck (when Juanes hit the high notes on the tumbling, breathless "Es Por Tí" ["It's For You"], the man's huevos undoubtedly bounced his tonsils out of place). And no one seemed to care that the Colombian's current hit, the sexually suggestive "La Camisa Negra," sounds much like his jeremiad against womanhood, "La Paga," the most enjoyable clones since the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" and "ABC."

Sure, Juanes' performance could have been better. By catering to the hearts-aflutter section of the audience, there wasn't much of the spontaneous Juanes we've seen before, like the performance at the Wiltern a couple of years back where he grabbed a lady's cell phone and crooned lovely notes into it. And his one aside (said shortly before his excellent acoustic encore, about how just seven years ago, he was walking the streets of Los Angeles "lost, but in a dream") is one he's told so many times before I can nearly mouth it word for word. Still, by show's end, when he launched into the ringing, chugging notes of the anthemic "A Diós le Pido," even some of the thuggish Staff Pro security guards were twirling around hotties—and anyone who could motivate those upright rhinos to show even an iota of humanity deserves all the praise in the world.

 
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