Concert review: Pitbull is bad, as in really good, on Bad Man tour

Pitbull kicks off his North American The Bad Man Tour at the Save Mart Center in Fresno on Wednesday, July 6, 2016.
Pitbull kicks off his North American The Bad Man Tour at the Save Mart Center in Fresno on Wednesday, July 6, 2016. sflores@fresnobee.com

Pitbull is a bad man.

I mean that in the coolest, Michael Jackson sense of the word.

The guy is all personality. He is singular on stage, dressed in a suit, black-on-black with trademark shades and smile. Always with that smile.

The Grammy winning Latin rapper kicked off his Bad Man tour Wednesday, July 6, bashing through an hour and a half set in front a rabid and screaming (“woooo” is a kind of scream) crowd that filled Fresno’s Save Mart Center to the rafters. He played through to the first costume change (he swaped his black tux jacket for a white one) without breaking a sweat and didn’t slow his step or swagger for the rest the show, which included all the expected hits (“Fireball,” “Hotel Room Service” and “Timber”).

And at the end of every song, he was right there in the spotlight, posed with a hand in the air.

Always with that smile.

It’s crazy to think that this is Pitbull’s first headlining tour as solo artist. Especially since he’s been in the business for 16 years and has became a staple of pop music, having done songs with Marc Anthony, Chris Brown, Enrique Iglesias, Christina Aguilera, Kesha, Ne-Yo and Jennifer Lopez.

Short of staging a cavalcade of guest stars, it’s difficult to pull those songs off live. Pitbull manged in the best way possible, with backing tracks and video screens. The audience helped by singing on the hooks.

On the whole, the show came off rather seamless, aside from few first-night technical glitches, and served as a kind for visual and audio resume for the rapper. It was a glimpse at his version of the American dream. Hint: That dream includes women and bikinis. Lots of women and bikinis.

On that note: “Messin’ Around” was the high spot of the set for me. Even more than “Timber,” a song that I love.

Prince Royce plays direct support on the tour. He could have had his own headlining set. Sure, the Latin pop singer doesn’t carry Pitbull’s bombast or dance beat, and his set seemed tame in comparison, but Royce could easily be back at the Save Mart Center on his own. And soon. Where Pitbull’s performance was a full-on dance party, Royce’s was a more personal and intimate affair.

At one point, he brought a fan stage to help sing a version of “Stand By Me.” The timing and banter between the two was so spot-on it almost seemed like the whole thing had been staged (aside from the slightly out of tune singing). Later, Royce brought a female fan on onstage to share a song and dance (and some hugging. A lot of hugging, actually). From where I was sitting, it was heartfelt, a true once-in-a-lifetime moment that was really great to watch.

Royce’s take on The Weeknd single “Earned It” was the high spot of the night.

Stray observations:

▪ My Spanish is poor, but I did manage to make out: “Déjame escucharte gritar” – “Let me hear you scream!”

▪ This was possibly the most lively I’ve seen a crowd between sets changes. The DJ even had the vendors and ushers dancing in the aisles.

▪ Pitbull went heavy with the rock during his song interludes, with samples of everything from Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

▪ There were lots of wobbling women. The Save Mart Center stairs and ultra high heels do not mix.

▪ Best homemade T-shirt of the night: “Keep Calm and Dale.”

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