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WEEKEND REVIEWS | Pop Music Review

Gabriel Outshines Younger Stars at KLVE Fest


The gargantuan Latin pop concert sponsored by KLVE-FM (107.5) Friday at Staples Center was designed as a 25th anniversary salute to one of the leading radio stations in the Southland.

But the five-hour show also served as an enchanting celebration of the three-decade career of one of Mexico's most prodigious composers, Juan Gabriel.

In terms of evoking a response from the capacity audience, Gabriel, a diminutive middle-aged man with markedly feminine manners, beat the daylights out of his co-headliners, including a couple of high-profile young, hunky singers.

The crowd welcomed Enrique Iglesias (who turned in a brief, highly animated bilingual set) and Chayanne (who appeared to be relying heavily on prerecorded tapes) with enthusiasm and rewarded veterans Marco Antonio Solis and Vicente Fernandez with loud ovations.

But the response took on an almost religious intensity the moment Gabriel began an hour medley that neatly summarized his almost inexhaustible battery of hits.

Sure, there were no sighing teens during Gabriel's musical autobiography. But it was hard to find anyone in the venue who wasn't chanting along to standards such as the poppy gem "Siempre en Mi Mente" or the mariachi classic "Se Me Olvido Otra Vez."

Relishing his position as the evening's true star, Gabriel rewarded his loyal fans with his humble, soulful attitude, even shedding a few tears when singing "Amor Eterno," the song he wrote for his late mother.

Of the other performers, Guatemalan troubadour Ricardo Arjona proved that he is one of the most intriguing songwriters working in Latin pop today.

Musically, Arjona favors a pleasant brand of soft rock, embellished by grandiloquent piano chords and sugary sax solos. Listen to his lyrics, though, and you soon realize that the man has a lot to say.

"Desnuda," the theme song for the popular Mexican soap opera "Tres Mujeres," is a daring experiment in erotic poetry, the inner monologue of a man who is moved far beyond the carnal level when he beholds the naked body of his beloved.

Apart from a technical glitch that delayed the show for more than 45 minutes, the most disappointing segment of the evening was the appearance by Chayanne. The singer is one of the genre's most perplexing figures. One can only wonder why such a charismatic performer would anchor his career on material that has as much connection to his native Puerto Rico as Elton John to the Delta blues.

With the right repertoire, Chayanne could finally climb that final step to massive mainstream recognition. In his case, superstardom could be one good songwriter away.

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