As Luis Miguel’s voice soared for a high note, he punched the air one, two, three, four times, and then he wound up and delivered a mock karate kick that looked like Elvis in his Las Vegas prime.
Imagine Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Luciano Pavarotti, Julio Iglesias, Wayne Newton, Michael Bublé, Neil Diamond, Bruce Springsteen and Celine Dion all rolled into a suave black suit, white shirt and black tie. That might begin to give you an idea what Miguel was like in concert Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.
His consistently exhilarating, never-exhausting 2¾-hour marathon was one of the most satisfying arena performances the Twin Cities will witness this year. That’s without any of the whiz-bang bells and whistles associated with big-time tours. Or with this listener being able to understand a word Miguel was singing in Spanish.
The Puerto Rican-born, Mexican-based international superstar triumphed because he is one of the most emotive performers vocally and visually on the arena circuit.
Miguel sings with force, control, dynamics, nuance and conviction. And he does it with grand arm gestures, gentlemanly machismo, spurts of athletic dancing, bursts of gleeful air guitar, frequent hand signals to his musicians and fans, and a megawatt smile that lights up an entire hockey palace.
With drama that was part opera singer and part Telemundo soap, the magnificent Miguel sang loudly but with supreme control.
He also could dial it down. He improvised a jazzy “la-la-la” intro to “Contigo En La Distancia” and eventually finished with a belted held note.
While he blared like a trumpet much of the night, he evoked a flute on the ballad “Tu y Yo,” eventually giving way to a piccolo-like whisper, as he pulled the microphone away from his face. The demonstrative Miguel knows how to work it.
Even though the six-time Grammy winner has been a major touring star since the early 1990s, this was only his third appearance in the Twin Cities, and his first in 11 years. The cultural hero — he was the subject of a Telemundo docudrama series about his life last year — drew only about 5,000 concertgoers, but most of them sang along whenever he encouraged them.
While he still has rock starlike moves and charisma, the Mexican idol eschewed the pyrotechnics and flash of his earlier tours. The Miguel who came to St. Paul was more adult. The 49-year-old with the heavy-on-the-hairspray pompadour offered a variety of sounds, including boleros, romantic ballads, mariachi and a taste of his early Latin pop-rock.
If much of the performance felt like a dashing Vegas show featuring eight musicians and two female backup singers, the mood and texture completely changed when Miguel brought out a 14-piece mariachi.
Suddenly, the appealingly histrionic superstar was no longer performing but singing with pure joy. With his tie and coat gone in favor of a vest, his persona was looser, his camaraderie with the musicians more palpable. The mariachi segment, featuring both festive and orchestral-like numbers, was the highlight of the evening.
Miguel also sparkled on two ballads, “La Barca” and “Contigo En La Distancia,” when he was accompanied solely by a grand piano.
Longtime fans appreciated the encore medley of early pop hits, including the Steely Dan-esque “Será Que No Me Amas,” the “Flashdance”-like “Muchachos De Hoy” and “Ahora Te Puedes Marchar,” a Spanish version of Dusty Springfield’s 1964 pop hit “I Only Want To Be with You.”
After the confetti rained at show’s end, Miguel remained onstage, gently tossing white roses — five bouquets of them — to the faithful in the front rows as the band played on. Then he saluted slowly, blew three two-handed kisses, clapped his hands in appreciation to the fans and walked off with a radiant and self-satisfied smile.