Juanes, Antonio Orozco Toyota Center March 30, 2011
Right on cue at 8 p.m., the Toyota Center house lights go down and the show starts, although instead of Juanes, it's Antonio Orozco that takes the stage. That was the first tease of the evening, and a foreshadowing of the many more to come before the end of the night.
With nothing more than a guitar, a chair and a floodlight, Orozco sang a few tunes and was off the stage by 8:18, but one woman in the audience was already losing it, yelling so loudly during his set her friend changes seats to get away.
Juanes' fans were visibly excited and ready for him to show his face, but it would be 40 minutes before the 17-time Latin Grammy winner finally greets the Houston audience - tease No. 2, the classic "Keep 'Em Waiting."
When Juanes opened with "Yerbatero," an Arabesque-flavored dance tune, the crowd didn't show an iota of annoyance at having had to wait for him. Everyone was off their seats and screaming a loud Houston welcome at the top of their lungs.
"It was amazing. It was awesome. As soon as he came out, my heart was thumping," Suzette Olivan said.
The crowd may have been so forgiving due to Juanes' pleasantly form-fitting super-tight black jeans, or the tight black jacket that was going to eventually come of before the end of the night to reveal those sexy tattoos. It could have also been the eight huge LED screens that that give "light show" an entirely new meaning. More likely though, it was the sheer passion that the Columbian songwriter delivers with each note of his guitar-driven dance ballads.
Juanes gave the crowd exactly what they came to see within the set's first nine minutes, when he started strumming the first notes of "Camisa Negra," one of his most famous tunes. His eight-member band, which included drums and a Latin percussion conga/bongo set-up, held nothing back.
The singer made sure to serenade the audience on both sides of the stage, giving an up close and personal feel that made the big arena feel small. His interaction with the crowd kept the energy level high, even during the romantic love ballads for which he's particularly known.
It also helped that most of his slower songs were spiced up with a strong dance beat in the middle. The audience, in turn, never missed a beat when they were asked to sing along to any part of the songs.
At one point, Juanes got right up to the barricade and shook a few hands before backing off and singing just out of the reach of the crowd. By that time though, everyone in the floor seats had bum-rushed the barricade. The security guards didn't like this at all, but the fans sure did, and it took more than a few minutes to get everyone back to their seats and the aisles cleared.
"He sings a lot about love, but it's not just romantic love. He sings about community, earth, peace, love and harmony. It's more spiritual," Angela Sanchez said.
Before the end of the night, Juanes thanked everyone, down to the video and light crews. His final song, "A Dios le Pido," ended with guitar riffs and drum craziness that shook all the LED screens on the stage like the end of a firework show. However, he wasn't done yet.
Juanes ran across the stage, taking a few bows, and lined up with the rest of the guys for a full-band bow. Then he took some video of the Houston crowd before finally closing the show to still-screaming fans.
"I've seen him four times," Magnolia Monroy said. "It's just as good as the first show,"
Juanes knows how to tease and deliver.
Personal Bias: If you're a tall dude in the ninth row at a Latino concert, don't stand up the entire time and not freaking dance. It's insulting because you're blocking our view for no good reason. Thank goodness for the LED-screen Juanes!
The Crowd: Mostly Latino, many wearing sombrero vueltiaos, traditional Colombian hats.
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Overheard in the Crowd: "I had to really keep my eye on some of those crazy ladies. They really wanted to grab him. One really wanted to grab his leg." - a security guard at the barricade
Random Notebook Dump: Juanes took the time to visit Houston students at J.R. Harris Elementary School during the day before his concert. How sweet!