You can’t be king without a throne.
Fortunately, singer Romeo Santos – whose self-proclaimed title of king of bachata has been affirmed by acclamation in the past decade – came equipped with a regal one at Thursday’s concert for an enthusiastic audience of loyal subjects at Amway Center.
On a stage accented by royal red banners bearing his initials, Santos appeared upon on a monstrous golden chair, adorned in dark shades, a chocolate-colored jacket and matching slacks. Nearby, a pair of gold-winged griffins stood guard over the star and his expressive 12-piece band.
They were the only ones not moving, since it’s virtually impossible to avoid being swept away by the spell of the music’s infectious rhythms. Songs such as the opening trio of “You,” “La Diabla” and “Malevo” emphasized a winning mixture of congas, timbales and gut-string guitars.
Despite the number of musicians and the subtle combination of acoustic instruments, the sound mix for the nearly three-hour show was much better than the noise of most rock bands in the arena.
Santos reigns over urban bachata, which augments the genre’s Dominican roots with sonic touches borrowed from contemporary R&B. The foundation for his solo career was established in the New York bachata boy-band Aventura, which he founded in 1994 and propelled to stardom with six studio releases and three concert albums.
He embraced bachata’s crossover potential on his solo debut, “Formula, Vol. 1,”notably teaming with Usher for the hit “Promise.” On Thursday, Santos drifted away from the music’s roots only briefly, but forays into harder-driving material paled next to the traditional sound.
Santos addressed the crowd that filled the arena’s lower bowl in both English and Spanish, offering the sexually charged talk one might expect of a Romeo and genuine-looking fan interaction that included an audience member's on-stage marriage proposal.
“There’s something about this song that the ladies just love,” he said of “Los Infieles.”
In a rare misstep, he wasted too much time – we’re talking 17 minutes – recruiting three dudes to contribute vocals to “Debate de 4,” filling the parts originally handled by bachata heroes Luis Vargas, Raulin Rodriguez and Anthony Santos. They were less than heroic, standing next to the king.
And that title? Based on Thursday’s performance, Santos can rest comfortably on his throne.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun