By Mark Guarino
One is a gentlemanly husband who sang tortured love songs, one is a hunky playboy whose songs were meant to seduce. Backed by bands the size of small armies, both their music grew larger than life.
The “Juntos en Concierto” tour united two major stars of Latin pop delivered from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Marc Anthony, a New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent, is the most endurable; despite his tabloid status as the husband of Jennifer Lopez (and this year the father of a set of twins), he merits his own spotlight as a passionate singer and highly finessed salsa bandleader.
At the Charter One Pavilion at Northerly Island, Anthony shared a double bill with Alejandro Fernandez, a Mexican pop heartthrob who started out a traditionalist but of late has gone international with static pop ballads and rock guitars.
Anthony and Fernandez have obvious crossover appeal but both reserved their individual hour-long sets for Hispanic audiences by singing strictly in Spanish. Anthony last appeared in Chicago in the fall when he sang duets at the United Center with his then-pregnant wife.
Returning alone proved a good thing. Driven by a 12-piece band plus three backup singers, Anthony flirted with the crowd as much as he set them in motion: The aisles filled up with dancing couples all night.
Although restrained, his singing was powerfully emotive; on songs like “Hasta que te Conoci,” he held single notes indefinitely aloft until the music broke underneath. He also proved a persistent bandleader, setting time with clapping and challenging bandmembers to create counter rhythms around his rock steady beat.
Fernandez almost doubled the musician count — 21 total plus four dancers — but in his set, they became like fine china stashed in a glass cabinet, more to look at than use. The six-man string section waved their bows in the air more than put them to use.
Although Fernandez, the song of Mexican ranchero star Vincente Fernandez, devoted time late in his set for more traditional sounds, the majority was devoted to outdated synthesizer pop. His limited baritone sounded as artificially poised as everything within sight.