After performing for more than 30 years, Luis Miguel needs no introduction, and there wasn’t one Wednesday night at the Erwin Center. In lieu of an opening act, the crowd sat until after 8:50pm, which I’m told is somewhat early for the usually tardy Miguel. The crowds wait for him, however long it takes.
Austin’s Hispanic community was out in full force, me included. Even the men who looked the most reluctant were wearing pressed polos and jeans. Anywhere the eye roamed, it fell on women dressed to the nines, taking measured jumps up the arena steps in stilettos.
Humming in anticipation, the crowd warmed up by practicing its cell phone photography on the empty stage, which stool tall with three levels for Miguel’s big band. Couples took selfies seats; men nursed draft beers; and girls chatted excitedly in Spanish in seats next to their mothers and grandmothers.
Once Miguel appeared, the “hits” tour didn’t disappoint. The UT concert drum broke out the chorus to “Suave,” which originates on Aries, a disc Miguel recorded 20 years ago. Now 43, the San Juan, Puerto Rico-born crooner stopped to take a breath. Famously tanned, he arrived dressed all in black from his tie on down to his shiny shoes.
In the roughly two-hour set, Miguel made his way through the story of his life. “Si Te Vas” was another up tempo canción showcasing not just Miguel’s honeyed voice, but also the power of his band behind him. A sturdy rhythm section acted as the relentless backbone of the show, the brass section then making up the heart. Miguel, of course, remains the soul.
Somewhat muted in comparison to the performances of his teens, 20s, and early 30s, Miguel still wiggles his hips, giving the audience much to crack grins over. His own smile rarely leaves his face and it is, in a word, brilliant.
“Gracias, gracias, amables,” he said, introducing his band after a few songs. He listed titles, waiting for audience response, but talk was obviously cursory. Miguel prefers singing to stage banter.
With “Bésame Mucho,” the intimately configured crowd of some 4,000 erupted in song and dance. Miguel gestured to them, asking, perhaps, who’s turn it is to sing? In moments like these, it’s apparent just how many crowds this man has seen in lifetime.
Miguel collaborated with Frank Sinatra on 1994’s Duets II, so he paid tribute to that with “Come Fly with Me.” Turns out the song is markedly less popular with his target audience, but what he loses their participation, he made up for with plain enthusiasm.
Near the end of the show, 11 mariachis appeared, sharply dressed all in white. Having shed his jacket, Miguel threw his arm around one violin player, who looked startled into singing along to “Cielito Lindo.” A flood of green, white, and red confetti dropped from above and Miguel threw white flowers into the audience.
His exit brought stomping from the bleachers, and naturally a chorus of “otra!” The only encore came from his self-titled 2010 album, a song called “Labios de Miel.” Though the audience persisted in wanting more, those “Lips of Honey” had likely already exiting the building.