As Mexican electro-pop group Belanova waltzed through a truly abominable version of the Cure's classic nugget "Boys Don't Cry," all lovers of quality Latin music who were present at the Reventon Super Estrella festival on Saturday at the Los Angeles Coliseum must have said to themselves: "Why am I here?"
But that's OK. Now in its ninth edition, the annual Reventon, organized by local radio station Super Estrella (107.1 FM), has a long-standing reputation for creating indigestible combinations where the glorious often stands side by side with the downright grotesque.
This year was no exception. If anything, though, the list of performers was particularly ambitious -- grand and eclectic enough to leave everyone in the, at times, near-capacity audience satisfied at one point or another.
The big coup was ending the night with the playback-induced shenanigans of Mexican telenovela sensation RBD, whose theatrical production and silly dance moves enhanced the pop extravaganza side of the event.
Also present in this briskly paced event were the lilting, accordion-heavy ballads of Julieta Venegas (a former Latin alternative priestess gone soft); the rollicking, guitar-based party tunes of '80s rock survivors from Spain Hombres G; and the elegant glam-pop of androgynous Argentine combo Miranda! (a name to watch), among others.
Think of veteran Mexican roquera Alejandra Guzman as the Latino equivalent of '70s band Heart. Many of her songs, in fact, sounded just like "Barracuda" en espanol. Toward the end of her set, the nocturnal mood of the crunchy "Hacer el Amor con Otro" ("Making Love With Someone Else") delivered the evening's most perfect moment of pure, honey-dripping arena rock.
Surprisingly, Ricky Martin stood as the most powerful and least pretentious of the evening's many acts.
There is something slightly surreal about seeing the man who was solely responsible for unleashing the so-called Latin Music Explosion (a phenomenon that many would say was ultimately detrimental to the development of la musica latina in this country) onstage in 2006.
But there he was, Ricky himself, performing something that sounded like "Livin' la Vida Loca: The Tribal Version."
On "La Bomba," the Puerto Rican singer employed the unmistakable piano pattern of classic salsa, adding a sheen of authentic flavor to his operatic brand of overproduced pop.
And in a similarly infectious moment, he used his percussion section for maximum effect, driving the crowd to a frenzy by dancing wildly to a samba-like beat on "Por Arriba, por Abajo."
Sure, finding artistic credibility in Martin's music may be overreaching a bit -- all the same, he has remained true to his roots, perfecting a blend of Afro-tinged pop that never fails to engage. Throughout his set, he made an effort to communicate with the audience, making a call for world peace and demolishing whatever preconceived notions we may have about him. "Me hacia falta estar en esta fiesta," he said. ("I really needed to be part of this party.")
The Reventon lives on. Can't wait for the 10th edition.