The last year has been a landmark one for the category broadly known as Latin pop: artists from the Spanish-speaking world have dominated streaming charts, and in late 2020 the Puerto Rican MC and singer Bad Bunny became the first artist to top the Billboard 200 with a Spanish-language album with his “El Último Tour Del Mundo.” Tuesday night at TD Garden, two of the artists who helped break down American listeners’ barrier between “Latin pop” and “pop,” Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin, co-headlined a high-octane show that celebrated their successes.
American pop radio’s larger-scale embrace of Latin sounds didn’t come until 1999, although both Martin and Iglesias had success before that. In 1997 the San Juan-born Martin released “The Cup of Life,” a jubilant, samba-tinged anthem that later became the theme for the 1998 World Cup; Iglesias, who was born in Madrid and moved to Miami as a child, won the Best Latin Pop Album Grammy in 1997, and he headlined arenas on his “Vivir” tour. The big breakthrough year, though, came when Martin and Iglesias reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 — Martin with the horn-filled, upbeat “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and Iglesias with the longing “Bailamos.” Those two songs, both of which remain potent, spoke to the split aesthetics of Tuesday’s concert. Martin’s set, which came second, was a wild party, with dancers and instrumentalists joining him as he reigned supreme over the stage. Iglesias, meanwhile, cut a more brooding profile, even on the more electropop-leaning songs that have made up much of his current output.
Iglesias went on first, and his 15-song set opened with bouncy cuts that recalled the early ‘10s like “I’m a Freak” and the anthemic “I Like How It Feels” before giving way to more tender tracks like “Bailamos” and the pop-bachata track “Loco.” The latter, performed on a smaller stage near the arena’s rear, was full of smoldering drama, with Iglesias and his backup singer lingering for a final embrace while the rest of the band made their way back to their stations. Iglesias’s biggest hits from the 2000s, like the sweeping “Hero” and the sun-dappled “Escape,” remained excellent showcases for his supple, sugar-tinged voice, which shines most brightly on romance-minded offerings, although “I Like It,” the 2010 club smash that closed his set, has a sense of joy about it that helps it leap out of big speakers, whether at an arena like TD Garden or at a club.
Martin’s set had the showmanship and dazzle of a Las Vegas revue, its songs punctuated by drum solos, dance breaks, and a heartfelt speech or two. Martin has a muscular voice that pairs well with ebullient brass and virtuosic guitar solos, both of which were also on display during his portion of Tuesday’s show. He whirled through his solo catalog, reaching back to his 1995 crossover hit “María” and forward to his Maluma-assisted 2016 track “Vente Pa’ Ca.” After a brief break for an encore, “The Cup of Life” closed the show, a throwback to nearly a quarter-century ago and a landmark moment in a pop history that’s still being written.
RICKY MARTIN AND ENRIQUE IGLESIAS
With Sebastián Yatra. At TD Garden, Tuesday