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Impeccable style, showmanship hallmark Miguel

Chicago Sun-Times
10/18/2005

With apologies to the Chairman of the Board, it's Luis Miguel's world, we're just living in it.

That philosophy of "the rules don't apply" was famously attached to his idol Frank Sinatra, and can be applied to his Latin pop acolyte. After all, Luis Miguel does exactly what he wants, when he wants, and his fans love him for it.

Such was the case Tuesday night at the Allstate Arena when Luis Miguel performed with the sense of extreme confidence and entitlement that would have made even Saint Francis envious.

Appearing on an elaborate set that recalled a mini-Caesars Palace, Luismi evoked all-Vegas swing, baby. Attired as usual in a crisp black suit, he popped out of a giant video screen and then sprinted off into a nearly two-hour marathon of song. For the first half, backed by an eight-piece pop ensemble, he surveyed his uptempo favorites such as "Con Tus Besos," "Suave" and "Sol, Arena y Mar."

In between, he sandwiched in ballads such as "Historia de un Amor" and "La Puerta." Like the best crooners, Miguel conjures up his own intimate world in song, creating the illusion of singing directly to you. When he sat down at the edge of the stage for a shimmering "No Me Platiques Mas," he pulled off the illusion that he was serenading an audience of one instead of a crowd of thousands.

Granted, his ballads pretty much all sound the same. Invariably, they start softly, then build steadily and then crest into a torrent of emotion. Normally, Luismi's vocal histrionics annoy this listener, but Tuesday at the Allstate, the bombast didn't seem to matter. In the words of Paul Anka, he does it his way ("if not himself, then he has naught"). And if you don't like it, well, then find your own little world.

Even so, what continues to set Miguel apart is his innate sense of style. From his impeccably tailored suits to his timeless material, he transcends musical trends. That message came through the strongest on a ranchera segment featuring songs from his latest disc, "Mexico en el Piel" ("Mexico in the Flesh"). Performing with a full mariachi ensemble, Miguel whipped up Mexican orgullo (pride) on songs such as "El Viajero" and "Cruz de Olvido." And in a big sartorial surprise, he changed into charro pants -- part of the elaborately decorated costume originally worn by cowboys and now considered iconic Mexican garb. (Imagine a member of the Rat Pack showing up in full Western wear, and you'll have an idea of the moment's impact.)

But in the realm of music, as in life itself, clothes don't really make the man. Returning for an encore segment that included "La Bikina" and his current hit "Mi Ciudad," Miguel reminded his fans of the ultimate measure of any pop music artist: showmanship. And by any account, Luismi's got that in spades.

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