POP MUSIC REVIEW : Menudomania--a Cooling Off at the Shrine

Times Staff Writer

Menudo, the fresh-faced Latino bubble-gummers with a knack for driving adolescent girls wild, joined four other Latin “hip-hop” acts Friday night at the Shrine Auditorium in a package reminiscent of the ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll revues.

Though the front rows were jammed with frenzied, die-hard fans, the 6,300-seat hall was less than half filled, suggesting either a poorly promoted event or cooling “Menudomania” passions in Los Angeles. Attendance wasn’t the only disappointment.

Relying on sophisticated, pre-taped sound tracks instead of live bands gave the singing of the support acts--Sandee, Denise Lopez, Sweet Sensation and the Cover Girls--the feel of a lip-syncing contest.

Still, the show had its moments. The present incarnation of Menudo--a band that has gone through at least 20 pubescent performers in a dozen years to maintain its pre-teen following--was professional and entertaining.


While older band members Ricky Martin, Sergio Gonzalez and Ruben Gomez danced their hearts out, the group’s strongest vocals were registered by its newest and youngest member, 12-year-old Angelo Garcia. Using material from Menudo’s recent English-language album, “Sons of Rock,” Garcia demonstrated a razor-sharp clarity at seemingly stratospheric melodic heights that thrilled the crowd.

Denise Lopez, who is in her early 20s, was the program’s most appealing and accomplished female vocalist. Her full, supple voice contrasted sharply with the shrill, overly sweet singing of her female peers. At the same, her manner--from obliquely feminist lyrics to her taunting, anti-macho stage banter--contrasted sharply with the conventional clingy, cloyingly passive stances of the other female singers.