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Pop Music Review

For a Change, Reventon Fest a Fresh Latin Treat

July 22, 2002|ERNESTO LECHNER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As a rule, festival-type concerts sponsored by Latin radio stations are hit-and-miss affairs. What with the rapid succession of lip-synching pop idols and the inevitable self-congratulatory remarks by the station's DJs, music takes the back seat.

The annual Reventon Super Estrella festival--sponsored by KSSE-FM (97.5)--has been no exception over the years. The fifth edition, however, Saturday at the Arrowhead Pond brought a refreshing change of pace by offering a fulfilling variety of acts and genres.

Oh, sure, the show still had its share of duds, namely a few musical lightweights prancing to the sound of playback. But you had to be a real grouch not to surrender to the contagious atmosphere established by thousands of young fans partying to the sounds of sticky merengue and arena-friendly rock en espanol.

Mexico's Paulina Rubio, who's currently in the middle of a breathless mission to cross over to mainstream America with an English album, was the evening's first surprise.

Rubio doesn't sound terribly appealing when she sings in English, but she has definitely created an easily identifiable persona through her wardrobe (a bizarre cross between trashy and bohemian) and her ideological manifesto that celebrates womanhood and offers a positive outlook on life.

Although she seemed to be aided vocally by some pre-recorded tape, it was hard not to be entertained by the split-timing precision and the sheer energy of her performance, which brought to life the vibe of an expensive music video.

The quintessential pop diva, Rubio would stand still, waiting for electric fans to blow air on her, making her hair float in an oddly poetic way.

And though Rubio's brand of feel-good pop is generic to say the least, her "El Ultimo Adios" ( The Last Goodbye) is an intriguing blend of old-fashioned ranchera and snappy electronica, one of Latin music's most successful attempts in recent times to merge genres that are seemingly contrasting.

Unlike Rubio, Elvis Crespo, whose music reflects the bouncy joys of the merengue, has no aspirations of leaving a major multicultural statement.

The Puerto Rican singer has been on the rebound since his 2000 album, "Wow Flash," was a critical and sales disappointment.

There's no need to come up with new hits, however, when the old ones will do just fine, and the singer added extra oomph to old favorites such as "Suavemente" (Softly) and "Pintame" (Paint Me).

Because it lacks the rhythmic complexity of salsa, the Dominican-born merengue fits into a pop context with its repetitive, sinuous sax lines and syncopated tambora beats.

If Crespo was Reventon's unexpected delight, Mexican starlet Fey, one of the evening's most anticipated performers, was its biggest disappointment. The singer has just released "Vertigo," an album that forsakes her previous image as bubblegum pop princess in favor of a more mature sound, heavily influenced by electronica and sophisticated European pop.

The collection is a brave step forward for Fey, who is experimenting with sounds that are new to her. Unfortunately, her brief appearance on Saturday did not replicate the album's daring vision.

Other performers Saturday included Rabanes, Pilar Montenego, Aleks Syntek, Kabah, Serralde and Enanitos Verdes.

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