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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Ranchera diva stands and delivers -- for four+ hours

August 13, 2007|Elijah Wald | Special to The Times

Apparently, Jenni Rivera has become the queen of Mexican Los Angeles. After more than a decade as a club singer best known for her street-wise, strong-woman corridos, she rocketed to a new level of success in 2005 with her "Parrandera, Rebelde y Atrevida" CD, and on Friday, she easily sold out the 6,000-seat Gibson Amphitheatre.

Although clearly thrilled with her newfound stardom, Rivera didn't rest on her laurels. Her show ran well over four hours, with backup alternating between a 14-piece brass band and a nine-piece mariachi, and except for three pauses for costume changes, she was front and center the whole time.

Two years ago at the smaller Kodak Theatre, Rivera was still doing a version of her wild club shows, complete with frequent shots of Cognac and a lap dance. On Friday, although she still worked her overwhelmingly female audience with the easy humor of a neighborhood girl made good, her show was more restrained.

The song selection ranged over her whole career, but the focus was on this past spring's grittily autobiographical "Mi Vida Loca," its numbers driven home by a voice that has gained depth and strength with the years.

There were occasional pitch problems, but Rivera has developed into the ranchera equivalent of a power-ballad diva, and it suits her new material.

Rivera comes from the reigning family of Los Angeles Mexican music, with its own record label and a father and several brothers who have racked up hits.

But her life has been far from easy, and her current work harnesses the passion of classic ranchera to address issues of domestic violence and single motherhood.

Only after the final costume change -- a spangled black jacket and matching hot pants -- did she snap into her old persona.

A trio of corridos led into the low-rider nostalgia of "Angel Baby," a rowdy "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights," a salute to her gynecologist, a tribute to her father and a rousing version of "La Tequilera."

As this reporter staggered out exhausted, Rivera was well into her fifth hour, drinking straight from a tequila bottle as the band hit the opening chords of "I Will Survive," and neither she nor her audience showed any signs of tiring.

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