If some network — say, the E! channel — decided to devote a special to him, they could title it “Luis Miguel, Happy at Last.”
After all, despite his fame and fortune, the Latin pop hitmaker, who launched his musical career in 1980 at age 11, has never embraced his stardom. Refusing to grant interviews and somehow managing to keep his busy private life ultra-private, he seems as buttoned-down as the crisply tailored black suits he favors in concert. Last year, he almost died (reportedly from a post-surgical infection) but never released an official statement about the incident. He’s so tight-lipped, the CIA should hire him.
But his usual cool reserve had vanished when he performed Friday night to an adoring crowd at the Allstate Arena. From the moment he appeared onstage, with digitized video screens projecting his suave self, he was all smiles and upbeat attitude. Tossing out white roses and — surprise! — shaking hands with fans down front, he seemed more relaxed and confident than ever.
So confident, he even sang a duet in English, “Come Fly With Me,” with his idol, Frank Sinatra, via video. Back in 1994, the Chairman of the Board invited the young Luismi to sing on his all-star compilation “Duets II.” Though he’s always prayed to St. Francis, Miguel at 41 has finally grown into this finger-snapping, ultra-Vegas crooner persona. In between songs, he teased the crowd with snippets of “Chicago,” another Sinatra signature tune.
Though Miguel has proven himself a master of ranchera, Mexico’s defining genre, he limited his 90-minute concert Friday to Latin pop/rock and boleros. As usual, he devoted much of his set to medleys of his many hits. But he preceded each potpurri with a fully realized standard; among the best were the bolero “Tres Palabras” and the uptempo “Que Nivel de Mujer.” Here his rich baritone emphasized why he’s become one of the most enduring Latin singers of all time.
Still, he could have done with one less medley and devoted an entire segment to his trademark boleros. Miguel revitalized the genre, popularized during the 1940s, with his quartet of “Romance” discs from 1991 to 2001 (the first three under the direction of bolero master Armando Manzanero). Early in the concert, when he sang Roberto Cantoral’s “La Barca,” he artfully finessed every bit of emotion from the song. Ol’ Blue Eyes, along with the Mexican greats Jorge Negrete and Pedro Infante, would have been proud.
Closing with his latest hit, “Labios del Miel” (“Lips of Honey”), he seemed to linger on the line “Como el tiempo/Eres eternidad.” (“Like time, you are eternity.”) At this point in his long career, the same could be said of Luismi himself.