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Pop Music Review

A Subdued but Engaging Julio Iglesias

April 26, 1999|ERNESTO LECHNER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It must be tough staying afloat in the world of Latin pop knowing that the most formidable competitor you are likely to encounter is your own son--though Julio Iglesias doesn't seem to mind.

Just a few weeks after his son Enrique placed himself on top of the Latin pop field with a spectacular show at the Universal Amphitheatre, the elder Iglesias appeared Friday at the same venue with an altogether different kind of performance.

The quintessential Latin crooner has become a quixotic sort of figure. Standing in the middle of the stage wearing a conservative black suit, he looked solemn and gaunt, like a warrior who has seen and heard it all and finally found the courage to expose himself for the whole world to see him just the way he is--still imperfect but infinitely wiser.

Speaking seamlessly phrased English with the kind of Spanish accent that Americans have always found irresistible, he told humorous stories of his bouts with sexual addiction and the humbling realities of growing old.

Interestingly enough, the singer had an equally elegant and subdued approach when it came down to presenting his music.

Beginning with his recent hit "Agua Dulce, Agua Sala" and then jumping into old favorites such as "Nathalie," Iglesias was backed by a band that has forsaken the usual bombast of Latin pop for a quieter sound and subtle orchestrations. You almost felt as if the drums, the two keyboards and other instruments were whispering to each other to avoid taking the attention away from the singer's limited but distinctive vocals.

Iglesias' repertoire is a mixed bag, seemingly drawn from every possible style or genre that might connect emotionally with his audience. Just when things seemed to be too slick and programmed, however, he would surprise you with something, such as an engaging rendition of Agustin Lara's seminal "Noche de Ronda" or a medley of tangos that managed to convey some of the genre's deep-rooted sadness.

Unlike at Enrique's concert, there were no screaming teenagers this time, but the moments of silence didn't mean the audience wasn't involved. Ironically, it was the silence that made Iglesias and his band appear all the more intense.

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