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Ricky Martin is out, happy and still shaking his 'Bon-Bon'

After years of masquerading as Latin music's ultimate ladies' man, Martin announced in March of last year he is gay, and is proudly using his current "Musica + Alma + Sexo" road show as a definite coming-out tour.

Bravo. I can only imagine how difficult this whole endeavor has been for this icon of Latin culture, which -- to put it mildly -- has not traditionally been the most accepting of homosexuality.

Has the news hurt his overall popularity? Maybe. His tour stop on Wednesday at HP Pavilion in San Jose drew an underwhelming 5,000-or-so fans -- but, hopefully, that's due more to declining record sales in the U.S. over the past 10 years than the issue of sexuality.

And, if not, the 39-year-old Puerto Rican could probably care less.

The smile on his face, visible basically whenever he wasn't singing, said volumes about how content Martin is with himself these days. And he was particularly happy to be performing in San Jose once a male fan jumped up onstage and planted a big smooch right on Martin's lips.

"Let's give him a big round of applause," Martin said, as security took the kissing bandit offstage. "Now, I can really say I love this."

The 90-minute concert, supporting the tour's namesake record from earlier this year, started with a highly symbolic black-and-white video segment that showed Martin bound in chains. He then began to break free, and with each swing chain snapped, his smile grew bigger. He freed himself right as the curtain on the stage dropped, revealing the real Martin and his band.

The backdrop was odd but impressive -- nine cages, stacked three-by-three, where dancers and musicians writhed and danced to throbbing techno music while in various states of leathered dress/undress. It was if the old "Hollywood Squares" game had been staged at the Exotic Erotic Ball.

The first portion of the four-part show was the weakest, as Martin tried to spice up some of his older material (such as "Dime Que Me Quieres") with the use of tired techno beats. The crowd, populated heavily with females, was unimpressed and didn't really get into the swing of things until the second segment, which consisted of the big hits -- "Livin' la Vida Loca," "Shake Your Bon-Bon" and "She Bangs."

They're all great songs that play to Martin's strengths, which, in 2011, does not include singing. They allowed him to shake his "Bon-Bon," smile for the camera and utilize his ample stage charisma, while his increasingly gruff voice was buried by a raging live band and harmonies from more-capable backing vocalists.

That was not, unfortunately, the case during Act III, which included mainly strained love ballads and other softly sung songs. He recovered nicely, however, during the final act as he rocked and rolled alongside a three-piece horn section through "La Bomba," "The Cup of Life" and other upbeat Latin pop numbers.

 

 

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