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MANILA, Philippines - Much virtual and literal ink has been spent singing the praises of the Philippine stop of Jennifer Lopez’s Dance Again World Tour, which was held last November 26 at Pasay City’s Mall of Asia Arena.
The afterthoughts have ranged from citing the merits of the show and its star, to a stargazing enumeration of the celebrity attendees.
Considering the largeness of the event — from Lopez’s global celebrity and fiery talent, the huge number of spectators (at least 10,000 packing over 90% of the coliseum-like Arena), the grandiose lighting and other visual effects, the deafening loudness of the live and pre-recorded music, to the bevy of sponsorships led by Sen. Manny Villar and family’s Vista Land that helped cover the gig’s tab — this JLo show could indeed be the biggest concert in the country this year.
There seems to have been a lack of emphasis, however, on the emotional bigness of the gig, which I shall get to in a bit.
Same shows, different destinations
Her Dance Again World Tour not only marks Lopez’s first time to be on our shores.
It also marks her first time to conquer the world physically, performing in one country and continent after another since the tour’s kickoff in Panama last June 14 until its projected end in Puerto Rico before Christmas Day 2012.
Of course, Lopez has long been a global entertainment fixture for over two decades now, with a large filmography and discography, and a TV career that spans her fledgling In Living Color start to her two-season stint as an American Idol judge — making her one of the most prominent people on Earth.
Yet she has never been able to go on a full-fledged world tour until now.
Per various sources online, the tour’s shows appear to be plakado, as in the setlist, script and surprises are the same everywhere she lands — all part of a grand design long planned out well before the JLo crew set out of North America to get their party started last June in Central America.
So no matter the destination, the Dance Again shows (also reportedly being filmed in certain stops as a future 3D movie) have a fixed sequence:
1) First is a 5-song “Old Hollywood Glamour” segment that concludes with her 2000-ushering “Waiting for Tonight”;
2) Next is a segue into a “Back to the Bronx” portion that climaxes with “Jenny from the Block”;
3) Then it’s a “Funk & Love” sojourn that kicks off with an updated video of “Baby I Love U” (past video costar: fellow actor and then-beau Ben Affleck; video costar now: BF and fellow dancer Casper Smart);
4) The main finale, the “Party” section, bookended by “Let’s Get Loud” and “On the Floor”;
5) The encore, now an obligatory concert staple, featuring her newest preordained hit “Dance Again.”
Adding to the visual razzmatazz was a widescreen backdrop, which played videos relative to the song at hand and themselves notable for their editing.
That is, JLo only appears in a given video if she’s not onstage; if a number at the moment is a duet ― say “I’m Real” with an absent Ja Rule or “Dance Again” with a prerecorded Pitbull ― the unraveling video is sans JLo, even if the tunes’ original music videos do feature her.
Given the Dance Again concerts’ pre-programmed predictability, it is quite up to the audience to prevent ennui from setting in on the performers. Yet conversely, viewers would not be chanting and dancing if JLo wasn’t such a motivational performer.
Booty and the beast
JLo didn’t come up onstage until around 9 pm but the MOA Arena sound system got an early workout via two batches of opening acts, which included the hiphop dance troupe Philippine All-Stars, and the song-and-dance sets by Mica Javier and G-Force and rapper-model-actor Jay-R.
If anything, the pre-JLo performers were a poignant reminder that Lopez had been in their more-neophyte shoes before, while the audience’s courteous applause and random shouts were a rousing reminder that it’s Lopez whom we yearned to see and hear.
Once the main show got going (at 9 pm and ending at almost 11 pm), pretty much everyone else onstage — the 6-member band and the male and female dancers who made things look like chaste Striptease or Magic Mike outtakes — was an all-out yet anonymous supporting player in the presence of this big J.
And Lopez sure was a radiant presence in her every second onstage, thanks to an array of tricks up her absent sleeves.
There was her variety of furious, near-beastly dance moves that might make Madonna’s eyebrows furrow.
There were here body-flaunting costumes as conceived by Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad that might make Alma Moreno don her tanga from Loveliness anew.
There’s Lopez’s okay voice that can relatively aim high, though not in the glass-breaking, birit heights of Regine Velasquez or Mariah Carey.
And there’s that JLo booty which she can shake, shake, shake like a pair of fleshy maracas.
All out, all her
Despite the bittersweet irony of her being a street-smart “Jenny from the Block” who declares that her “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” yet espouses exorbitant ticket prices, there is a generosity of spirit to Lopez that shone through that heady evening.
For one thing, JLo was a full-on performer, a modern-day echo of Michael Sembello’s Flashdance-era lyric of “when the dancer becomes the dance” — able to cut lose but without being over the edge, able to spread her legs with abandon yet without coming off as Lady Gaga-salacious.
Despite the sturdy barriers and gaping space put in place between the stage and the crowd, a smiling Lopez for several instances stepped on the bars and reached out to the audience on all sides.
It may seem gimmicky but when she quietly got someone’s camera, posed for it with some of the viewers as background then returned the device, the moment was simultaneously intimate and magnanimous.
Best of all, during the hushest moment of the night, for an acoustic rendition of her debut single “If You Had My Love,” she went on to invite a random fan up onstage — a Filipina who could pass for a Latina like her but looked far more casual than the showbiz personalities who filled the Arena grounds.
The Pinay, Anna Melissa Dasig (who turns out to be an assistant of singer-actress Sharon Cuneta, herself not far away) got to sing the song and sit beside then hug JLo to bits.
That moving episode seemed reminiscent of DJ Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 motto: “Keep your feet on the ground (J.Lo did) and keep reaching for the stars (Dasig did).”
Some might dismiss all that as purely an act, most likely repeated at her tour’s every show to boot. After all, the 43-year-old J.Lo is a movie star, too.
Yet those moments of Lopez connecting with her audience radiated such purity that they can thaw any icy cynicism.
On that note, to these eyes and ears, JLo’s PHL show was truly a booty-ful experience. - Rappler.com
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