Last Night: Pitbull at The Woodlands

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Pitbull Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion August 2, 2012

"I went from eviction and food stamps, to baggin work wet & damp, to a passport flooded with stamps. Now its Voli everywhere I land."

-- Pitbull

The date was December 1, 2006 -- or as I like to call it, the night I almost died at a Pitbull concert. Back then, I was just starting to learn how to use my camera, and the rapper was still playing clubs and car shows.

He had already experienced some acclaim and success, riding the wave of 2004's M.I.A.M.I. and 2005's Money Is Still a Major Issue. But his dream of becoming "Mr. Worldwide" was still roughly five years away.

Back to my near-death experience... If there's one thing you should know, it is this: The ladies absolutely LOVE Pitbull. He had swag before the term was invented. And on that night, I was front-row center, in the middle of a gaggle of overly obsessed and very drunk ladies, one of whom grabbed onto my neck and nearly choked me out before security intervened.

It wasn't my proudest moment, but I got my photos nonetheless.

Thursday night at The Woodlands, Pitbull put on a show that encompassed the heat and energy of Carnaval and New Year's Eve into one long, hot, and frenetic dance party. Somewhere along the way, the rapper with the ability to spit lyrics of love and lust at rapid-fire speed transformed himself into the pied piper of club anthems.

With oversized shades and an all-black designer suit, the man born Armando Cristian Perez made Houston feel just like his beloved city of Miami -- loud and flashy, cheerful and confident. What used to be a man with only a microphone and a DJ, is now an arena-worthy performer with a production of spectacularly blinding lights and an impeccably crisp and stellar back-up band.

The crowd screamed as he descended the platform at the center of the stage, beginning his set with "Hey Baby (Drop It To The Floor)", an electric call to the dance floor with T-Pain supplying the hook. Pit doesn't need back-up dancers, he does it on his own, gyrating his hips and flashing his toothy grin with bad-boyish charm.

His suit was quickly drenched in sweat. He continued with "International Love" and then "Dance Again". The ladies, dressed in their shortest club dresses and highest of high heels, loved every minute.

Some call it opportunistic; others call it business-savvy, but whatever you call it the formula works for Pitbull. Last year, he supplied a guest verse on a number of his friend's records, including but not limited to Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Usher, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown and Enrique Iglesias.

The video for "Get It Started", his newest collaboration with Columbian songstress Shakira, was just released days ago. One of the lines (quoted above) summarizes Pit's rise to the top. From the streets to the penthouse, an American dream story as good as any.

Fluent in Spanglish, Pit peppered his set with several shouts of "dale!" and "ya tu sabes!", stopping to translate whenever he could. The night played out like the world's largest Zumba class. Pit would dance, and the ladies danced. He jumped, and they did too. When he waved his hands in the air, they did also, as if they just didn't care (they did).

My favorite part of the night was when he told the story of his trip through Brazil where he met singer Michel Telo, who asked Pit to remix his international hit "Ai Se Eu Te Pego." Pit obliged of course, and both he and the crowd sang the with overjoyed voices, followed by raucous applause after the samba-dance breakdown.

The night ended with the track "Give Me Everything (Tonight), his biggest hit to date. "Ustedes, la gente de Houston, tienen tremenda energia!" he stated as he thanked his fans. ("The people of Houston have fantastic energy!")

He gave them everything that night. And I didn't die.

Personal Bias: I've am a big fan of his early stuff ("M.I.A.M.I." released in 2004 and "Money Is Still A Major Issue" from 2005). A Latino rapper who could actually rap? I was sold. His new stuff is not my favorite, but the ladies like it, and I like it when the ladies pretend that I'm Pitbull on the dance floor, if you know what I mean. (I don't even know what I mean *Kanye Shrug*)

The Crowd: Dancing, fun-loving mix of young and old (mostly young), white and brown, male, female and other (mostly female and other).

Overheard In the Crowd: "I'm melting my ass off over here!"

Random Notebook Dump: In a recent marketing campaign with Walmart, Pitbull agreed to visit the store that received the most "Likes" on Facebook. Once the Interweb heard about this, several thousand voted to send "Mr. Worldwide" to the store in Kodiak, Alaska. The #ExilePitbull campaign worked, and although he knew the contest was rigged, the rapper fulfilled his end of the deal. Good guy Pitbull, indeed.

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