From the ‘50s through the ‘70s, a number of fiercely idiosyncratic singers took Latin American popular music to new levels of sophistication. Artists such as Rolando Laserie, Tito Rodriguez and Jose Jose had vision and romanticism to spare.
Watching Luis Miguel on Wednesday during his second of six evenings at the Gibson Amphitheatre, you could not help but think that the Mexican pop star wishes he was one of those crooners from the good old days.
But it’s nearly impossible to reproduce the warmth of the analog era at a time when Latin pop is dominated by the soullessness of the digital age and record-company demands for radio-ready hooks of monstrous proportions.
To a certain extent, though, Miguel is beyond reproach.
At the Gibson, the 35-year-old artist relied on old-fashioned charisma and a toothy smile that simply refuses to fade away.
Against all odds, Miguel has actually recaptured some of Latin music’s bygone magic with his latest album. Titled “Mexico en la Piel,” it includes delicately orchestrated versions of mostly classic rancheras.
The first part of Wednesday’s program delivered not much more than pleasantries (great stuff if you happen to be sitting by the pool at a Cancun resort, for instance), but the second half had an affecting vibrancy after Miguel replaced his bombastic 11-piece orchestra with a mariachi ensemble.
His interpretation of the soulful “El Viajero” was peerless -- strong and mellifluous at the same time, expressing the oodles of nostalgia required of a tune praising the breathtaking beauty of Mexico.
And by performing the title track from the new album with the addition of soaring female voices, he successfully merged the seemingly incompatible worlds of ranchera and sentimental pop.
In the world of Luis Miguel, reviving just one genre is never enough.
Where: Gibson Amphitheatre, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City
When: 8:15 p.m. Friday
Contact: (818) 622-4440