Jennifer Lopez performs during her co-headlining tour with Enrique Iglesias. (Kevin Mazur / WireImage )
Despite having seven albums, a remix disc and dozens of singles under her belt, Jennifer Lopez, the performer, still had something to prove when she hit the stage Thursday for the first of two nights at Staples Center.
The multitasking diva recently walked away from a third season as a judge on “American Idol” to shift focus back to her music, film and business efforts. Currently on a joint tour with Enrique Iglesias (her first outing as a headliner), Lopez is playing a major game of catch up at 43 years old.
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Lopez is years away from the glory days of 2001 when she made history with the No. 1 album and movie in the same week with her sophomore record, “J.Lo,” and the romantic comedy “The Wedding Planner." Although she’s sold more than 70 million records around the world, her career has taken its fair share of punches (anybody remember "Bennifer"?).
Well aware of the criticism her pop stardom has amassed in recent years, Lopez showed she was ready for a fight Thursday night.
After a deliciously slick opening that featured two of her earliest hits, “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” and “Waiting for Tonight,” Lopez appeared as a boxer in a video montage that showed her infamous spill at the 2009 American Music Awards during a performance of her single “Louboutins.” It was an embarrassing moment that any other diva would have tried to erase from everyone's memory.
"When you fall down you get right back up ... that's how we do it where I'm from," a permanently glistening Lopez told the sold-out crowd before her latest single “Goin’ In.” It was one of many telling moments in the nearly 90-minute show that proved Lopez, despite her late start in the touring game, shouldn't be counted out yet.
A few highlights from this reporter’s notebook:
Lopez unplugged: Singing live in pop music sometimes feels like asking too much these days. Kudos to Lopez for doing much of the heavy lifting during this concert. Sure, she had the standard background singers and occasional pre-recorded backup when she turned up the intensity of choreography (such as during “Goin In”), but it was commendable to see the confidence and stamina of her raw vocals that pop tarts half her age don't always offer. Live ballads still aren’t firmly in her wheelhouse, but she sounded best during an acoustic version of her debut smash, "If You Had My Love."
Glitz and glamor: Leave it to the woman named one of the most beautiful in the world to offer plenty of evidence to back up that claim. In concert, she seamlessly channeled a cross between Vegas showgirl and dance-pop goddess with confidence and a ton of rhinestones.
'Jenny From the Block' returns: Lopez has shifted her attention to more sticky dance pop fare as of late, but there was a time when she knew her way around a hard-knocking hip-hop beat as well. The segment dedicated to those tunes, including the Ja Rule-assisted remixes of “I’m Real” and “Ain’t It Funny” was an all too brief reminder of Lopez's early days flirting with urban pop.
Love reigns: Lopez's long-running track record as tabloid favorite has continued with recent rumors that she’s kicking her backing dancer-turned-flame Casper Smart to the curb. Sorry to disappoint those with an office pool tracking her latest relationship, but Smart watched much of the show from the control booth before joining his girl on stage for the encore, “Dance Again.” He was also seen in a rather schmaltzy clip of the two doing an affectionate dance to “Baby I Love U!,” a somewhat awkward moment considering the track is from an album that featured a song dedicated to then-fiancé Ben Affleck. Wait, maybe that isn't a highlight after all?