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Live review: Marc Anthony at the Gibson Amphitheatre

November 12, 2009 | 11:32 am

The singer celebrates his Latino heritage while his adoring fans celebrate his music.

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Not long into Marc Anthony's show Wednesday night at Gibson Amphitheatre, the swivel-hipped singer-actor was checking off a list of job titles that demonstrated his pronouncement that 2009 "is a great time to be a Latino." Normally he doesn't get into politics, he admitted, but he'd been inspired by George Lopez, who drew huge cheers in a surprise appearance before Anthony's set with a shout-out to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Anthony couldn't help adding one occupation -- NFL owner -- that he recently entered into when he bought a stake in the Miami Dolphins. But 2009 was already a great time to be Marc Anthony before that purchase: In spite of his inability to crack the mainstream American market that seemed a decade ago to glimmer with possibility, Anthony currently commands one of the most adoring audiences in all of pop.

At the Gibson, where he sauntered onstage in his usual uniform of slim-fitting suit and sunglasses, Anthony was greeted like a returning hero, then showered with roses and "I love yous" for the duration of his 90-minute set. Nobody in the building appeared to mind that to many U.S. listeners Anthony is best known as Mr. Jennifer Lopez.

MARC_ANTHONY_2 Anthony rewards (and no doubt invites) that devotion with a graciousness uncommon among entertainers of his ilk. Instead of asking fans to sing along and then demanding more volume from them, several times Wednesday Anthony quieted his 15-piece band to make room in the mix for the crowd. At one point he took a cellphone from a woman near the stage and said hello to whomever was on the other end of the line. "I hope it's not her husband," he said with a laugh.

Musically, Anthony was most effective at the Gibson when he stuck to the up-tempo salsa sound he's explored on albums such as "Libre," "Valio la Pena" and the soundtrack to "El Cantante," the so-so 2007 biopic in which Anthony and Lopez portrayed salsa star Hector Lavoe and his wife.

Assuredly navigating the music's complicated rhythms, he found a middle ground between sensuality and sturdiness, jabbing between beats with a pointed physicality then moving upward into soaring choruses that had a lighter-than-air quality. In a vibrant rendition of "Mi Gente," one of Lavoe's signature songs, Anthony hardly needed to tell his musicians to lower their volume in order for the audience to be heard.

Though his vocals sounded fine throughout, the singer was less compelling in power-ballad mode, as during a dreary "Ahora Quien," which, with its tinkly piano intro and clumsy common-time plod, came across like something from "Phantom of the Opera" minus the appealing flamboyance.

As a rule Wednesday, the more straightforward the groove, the more trouble Anthony had summoning the energy and charisma that define his style.

Not that his fans cared, of course: To them Anthony wasn't just a guy with a minority interest in a sports franchise. Rather, he was the star quarterback, and Wednesday's show served as one long touchdown.

--Mikael Wood

Photo credits: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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