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.....7/27/00 Oakland
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......It's an all-encompassing show Ricky Martin puts on, and never a bore. He sings and his band of musicians and dancers do just that -- play music and dance. The band features a couple of drummers, a handful of guitarists and a few horns, all playing to a synchronized Latin dance beat. Do they sound good? Who cares? They're audible. ........Against a wave of shrieks from thousands of young women -- a cascade of shrills that has been compared to concerts by Hanson and 'N Sync, among others -- that is no small accomplishment. The ever-gyrating Martin shouted out his biggest and most familiar hit, "Livin' La Vida Loca," at the very start. Which was good because that instantly put to rest the question, "When is he going to do 'Livin La Vida Loca'?"
....... What followed was a well-choreographed adrenaline rush, starring Rick the Quick's happy feet, sinewy spine and bobbing head. He was relentlessly energetic but hopelessly pre-programmed. Not that the guy doesn't have soul, but come on. Make an album about self-realization and introspection and do an all-acoustic tour. Maybe then we'll take that stuff seriously. For now, give us the leather pants, satin shirts and flashing lights. The one thing Martin can do is dance. There's a point in his show when he does the tired sing-a-long bit, asking each half of the audience to sing against one another. But instead of pointing the microphone out and listening, Martin spins around, bends over and wiggles his butt. The screams are deafening. If the world hadn't already been drenched in the sweaty choruses of Ricky Martin's "La Vida Loca" for the last couple of years.
....... Thursday's Oakland stop might have seemed like part of the maiden tour to support that monster hit. The reason? Martin feverishly sold each song with all the awe and verve of a first-timer. With an enthusiasm and energy that seemed remarkable given how many thousands of times he must have performed these hits by now, Martin managed to make each song fresh again, urgent and fun.
........Forget the stage with the scaffolds, risers, stairs, treadmills, searchlights, bungee jumping dancing boys, Charo-style dancing girls, the disappearing band, the cage dropping from the ceiling, the three video screens behind the set that shifted between fire footage, MTV and live action, and the two screens that captured every in-the-flesh twitch of Martin's hips.
....... What was completely captivating, what was so winning, was Martin himself. There was nothing too deep going on, but Martin-even dot-size at a sold-out Oakland Arena-was able to turn that cavernous arena into his own private street party. He used one 20-minute stretch to get each side of the stadium to compete in a sing-along-in Spanish, and not once bothering to translate or slow down for non-native speakers. No one seemed to mind and the booming responses indicated that the crowd, a mix of Latinos and whites, got it anyway. .......But there were no risks here, none at all, Ricky Martin is, without a doubt, a master showman

By Randy Cohen

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