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In Music Reviews

Pitbull takes the stage at the Marcus Amphitheater Sunday night. (PHOTO: Summerfest)

Pitbull gives Milwaukee everything


You know who Pitbull is, even if you don't know that you know (Several members of the OnMilwaukee.com staff, I'm lookin' at you). You've no doubt heard "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)," the song that put him on the mainstream map back in 2009, and you've definitely heard his subsequent high-profile collaborations – "International Love" (featuring Chris Brown), "Give Me Everything" (with Ne-Yo, Nayer and Afrojack), "I Like It" (with Enrique Iglesias), "On the Floor" and "Dance Again" (with Jennifer Lopez).

So yeah, this dude's everywhere. (Everywhere? Everywhere.) And tonight he was in Milwaukee, burning the roof at the Marcus Amphitheater.

It's hard to believe that Pit, born Armando Perez, is only 32 years old. The son of Cuban immigrants and a Miami native, he's become one of the most recognizable names in pop music and is well on his way to becoming a mogul, ranking No. 11 in Forbes.com's Top 20 Earners in Hip-Hop for 2012.

On top of all that, the guy's got some serious swagger, dubbing himself "Mr. Worldwide" (he also goes by "Mr. 305, the area code for Miami-Dade County, but y'know, that's just too provincial now that he's besties with J.Lo). He is now one of those artists whose reputation precedes him. So I was excited to witness him in concert and see if his performance measures up to his persona.

I'm happy to say that it did, and then some.

The thing is, I didn't go to this concert considering myself a Pitbull fan. I went for work, and true, I was looking forward to it; I've listened to his singles on the radio and bought some from iTunes. I've embarrassed myself several times at stoplights jamming out to "On the Floor" in my car. I asked the DJ at my wedding to play "International Love" and he didn't and I will never, ever forgive him (and if you're reading this, give me my money back).

But tonight, I think I realized that I actually am a Pitbull fan. And you know what? You probably are too. I stood the entire concert. I danced, I screamed, I sang along, I sweated, I freaked out. I got shoved into some stranger when a fight broke out and delayed the concert 30 minutes (don't ask, I have no idea what that was about).

Here's the thing: Pitbull makes his swagger work for him. He has a really interesting philosophy and outlook on the empire he's created for himself. At various points in the evening, we in the audience were treated to Deep Thoughts by Pitbull. And it wasn't even off-putting or cloying.

"People say to me, Pit, how come you don't rap for the street no more, chico?" he told us. "I tell them, I rap to get off the street, not stay in the street. They say, how come you wear those suits, chico? I tell them, it shows growth. Maturity. Evolution. If you don't have haters, you ain't doing nothing right."

True, he showed up in his signature look: black dress pants, black button-down shirt, black blazer, black sunglasses.

And though he may have gotten into rap to get "off" the street, Pit nevertheless exhibits a profound reverence for his roots. About a third of the concert was conducted in Spanish, and I assume that many in the audience were bilingual and could understand what he was saying. Those of us who are woefully illiterate in Spanish understood anyway. He has a way of communicating that makes language unnecessary.

The house was about 80 percent full, and the audience ranged in age from one 80-year-old lady in the front who was totally getting down with her bad self (rock on, girl) to 12-year-olds wearing "Pitbull" tour T-shirts. White, black, Hispanic, Indian – all the colors of the rainbow were there.

"Music brings people together," he said. "No matter where you're from, no matter what your language."

I think Pitbull's music does.

From the moment he stepped onstage at 10 p.m. it was a non-stop high-energy assault, with round after round of exhausting but exhilarating dance numbers. He began with "Hey Baby (Drop It to the Floor)" and moved into "I Like (The Remix)" which was a reworking of Enrique Iglesias' song "I Like How it Feels." From there the buzz continued with "International Love" and "Dance Again" (a collaboration with Jennifer Lopez).

I would say the high point of the evening was a three-way mash-up of "On the Floor," "I Like It" and "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love." That was followed by "Hotel Room Service," "Feel This Moment" (with Christina Aguilera) and finally his first worldwide hit, "Give Me Everything."

A large portion of the setlist was remixes or short homages to other artists (including "Sweet Child O' Mine," "I Got a Feelin'" and "Fight For Your Right to Party"), which makes sense considering that Pitbull's career has been, in a way, made what it is by relationships with other talented musicians. Most of his hits feature other artists, and he's gotten flack for that – but is it really a bad thing? In a way, it kind of fits in with his musical ideology and his sense of gratefulness – we're all interconnected, and Pitbull's success is a house built in large part by others. And really, isn't everyone's?

Opening act Far East Movement delivered with high-energy renditions of their hits "Like a G6," "Get Up (Rattle)" and "Rocketeer." This LA-based quartet features Kev Nish, Prohgress, J-Splif, and DJ Virman and first rose to fame in 2010 with "Like a G6," when they became the first Asian-American group to read No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Their zealous dance hip hop is explosive and dynamic, and they're impressive performers, jumping around in their white jumpsuits.

Also, I have to say that their back-up dancer was off the hook (ditto for back-up singer Dani Amara). Their brand of spectacle-based, DJ-driven music is the wave of the future.

Opening DJs Jump Smokers are from this neck of the woods, originating in Chicago. Remixes are their specialty, and they got the crowd going with high-octane reimaginings of "Baby Got Back," "The Motto," "Titanium," "Die Young," "Party Rock" and "Scream & Shout." They had the awkward job of having to get everyone grooving like they're in da club while it's still light outside and the arena is half-empty, but these guys did an admirable job. The audience really responded to them and loved these pulsating adaptations of some of their favorite radio hits.

A little while before the delayed concert began, some bald guy in a suit was walking around the Marcus Center. A couple people freaked out ("OH MY GOD IT'S PITBULL") and pulled out their cameras and phones. Most people did a double-take and then went about their business. They knew it wasn't Pit.

He just didn't have the swagger.


Talkbacks

devidia | July 1, 2013 at 12:40 p.m. (report)

Sorry. I don't know who Pitbull is, and I don't care that I don't know. Thanks for asking.

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