Unido2 Tour: Marc Anthony and Carlos Vives Embrace Houston With Amor

Carlos Vives dances the night away.
Carlos Vives dances the night away.
photos by Marco Torres

"Unido2 Tour"
Feat.
Marc Anthony & Carlos Vives
Toyota Center
October 16, 2015

"I love Marc Anthony!" proclaimed a lovely young lady as I answered her inquiry concerning the particulars of my weekend. "He's like the Latino Frank Sinatra of our generation!"

Wow. I never really thought about him in that way, but I'd have to say she is almost absolutely accurate in her assessment of Anthony (alliteration achievement unlocked!). His songs are instantly recognizable classics; he showcases great range both vocally and project-wise (acting, singing, charitable work); and he is frequently surrounded by the most beautiful women on Earth. His ex-wives include a former Miss Universe and Jennifer Lopez.

But besides those accomplishments, there is something just extremely cool about Mr. Marco Antonio Muñiz. With charisma, passion and love for his people and the music, Marc Antony serves as a proud monument of a Latino-Americano success story.

Marc Anthony performs with all the passion.
Marc Anthony performs with all the passion.

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It also takes a pinch of humility for him to serve as opening act for someone else. Considering that Anthony performed the same set list the last two times he hit this building, it was cool to see him trade in his suit for a sports jacket and jeans. He seemed looser and more relaxed, but with the same passion he is known for. With every horn hit and timbales solo, Anthony danced around the Toyota Center stage with the mastery of a bullfighter and the grace of a ballerina. Every now and then, he would look up toward the sky and point, in the same way that baseball players do when they hit a home run, eternally grateful for the sound that has kept him going throughout his career of almost three decades.

It was "Valio La Pena" and "Y Hubo Alguien" that began his night. As he normally does, he playfully bantered with the crowd in his Nuyorican Spanglish, celebrating all of those waving flags from a variety of Latin American countries, and playfully admonishing those sitting down and playing on their phones while he performed. Indeed, it is almost impossible to sit still during his set. The music grabs you by the blood and resonates until you begin to shake your hips and shimmy in your seat. He slowed down a bit in the middle with a ballads medley that included a cover of Juan Gabriel's "Abrazame Muy Fuerte" and the softer version of "Ahora Quien."

Marc Anthony singing from the heart.
Marc Anthony singing from the heart.

"Quieren bailar? Do you wanna dance?!" he asked his fans as he switched gears once again. "I need you guys to sing and dance with me!" And that they did to "Vivir Lo Nuestro," "Te Conozco Bien" and the Hector LaVoe classic "Mi Gente." He left the crowd supremely warmed up for his tour partner, who needed to somehow follow up Anthony's excellent set with something magical in order to keep in the crowd's good graces.

Caris Vives, the Colombian King of Vallenato.
Caris Vives, the Colombian King of Vallenato.

And for that, Carlos Vives was ready. He didn't need much time in between sets to take over. He didn't want to let the crowd rest even for ten minutes. Coming up strong with the energetic "Pa' Mayté," Vives ramped up the tempo and never looked back. With the jovial attitude that is characteristic of a Colombiano, he was all smiles as he bounced around the arena stage, waving at fans, blowing kisses and dancing toward the appreciative crowd.

El Mestro Egidio Cuadrado
El Mestro Egidio Cuadrado

His weapon of choice is vallenato, the festive folk music indigenous to Colombia, a style dressed with flute, lively percussion and virtuoso accordion. In Vives's case, he has been blessed with the maestro Egidio Cuadrado, the Sergei Rachmaninoff of Colombian accordion. Wavering seamlessly between smooth, sustained notes and staccato sounds, Cuadrado and Vives make for one of the most dynamic combos in all of music.

The lovely selections of "La Gota Fria" and "Carito" put the crowd into a joyful mood, ready to embark on the ride that Vives was providing. "This is music from my home," he explained. "This is from the Magdalena River in Colombia. This is my Blues music, my Mississippi River!"

Great fashion statement.
Great fashion statement.

And really, you couldn't explain it any better than that. This wasn't high-society entertainment we were listening to. Vives thrives and lives with the pueblo, with his community. He preaches peace and unity among the Latino people, for the betterment of the whole society. Doing so with "Tierra Del Olvido" and "Fruta Fresca" is about as perfect a platform as any.

He briefly mentioned the biggest bad word that most Latinos are dreading these days: Trump. "In the end, todos somos Mexicanos" he proclaimed in a showcase of solidarity against all the ignorance and bigotry that is The Donald. He then sang a cover of the Jose Alfredo Jimenez ranchera classic "Te Solte la Rienda." I've never felt so Mexican and so Colombian at the same time...As I sat there, listening to the entire arena sing one of the loveliest ranchera songs with extreme emotion...It was the magic moment we were waiting for all along. 

Carlos Vives. Unifier of cultures.
Carlos Vives. Unifier of cultures.

The night ended with "Volvi A Nacer," and saw Carlos ride a cruiser bike around and across the stage, finally disappearing behind his band and video screens. Most of us definitely expected Marc Anthony to accompany Carlos onstage for at least one song, but the show did begin late, so maybe they ran into the venue's curfew and couldn't make the joint appearance happen. 

Either way, we left satisfied, and, more important...United.

P.S.

The night did end with this absolutely wonderful music video by the organization Playing For Change:

When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Marco points his camera lens toward the vibrant Houston music scene. Follow his adventures on Instagram at @MarcoFromHouston.

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