J Balvin’s second Los Angeles show kicked off with a few rules – dance, take photos, make friends with the dinosaurs walking the audience, and throw your lingerie onto the stage when you’re feeling frisky.
The rules were incorporated into a whimsical opening film that encapsulated the essence of the Colombian artist’s playful persona with campy visuals, Spanish dialogue and English subtitles. Balvin appeared immediately afterward, sporting a white cargo jumpsuit bearing iron-on patches of sharp teeth and googly eyes – iconography from his 2018 studio album “Vibras.” Performing live at The Forum on Saturday and Sunday, Balvin’s “Vibras Tour” was a tribute to mirth, style and the “Latino gang.”
From performing tropical melodies like “Ambiente” to fiercer beats like “Machika,” Balvin displayed one of the greatest feats of his discography – he has avoided being pigeonholed, a trap that the vast majority of reggaeton singers fall into. Balvin showed no fear in experimenting: The neon costumes and giant animals that could be deemed over-the-top by some set the foundation for the show’s lighthearted tone and infectious energy.
Each of the sets were carefully constructed with elaborate central pieces as well as corresponding background visuals. At times, the scarlet giant T. rex and monstrous octopus tentacles warranted more attention than Balvin himself, but they were the perfect representation of his albums’ artwork over the years. The vibrant constructions captured the fun-loving extravagance that is signature to his style, and most definitely wasn’t intended as compensation for lack of musical prowess.
Setting up the spectacle, however, wasn’t a troublesome affair. The transitions were seamless and anything but pretentious – dinosaur rib cages inflated in front of the audience, and more complicated set changes were masked by a simple white sheet. The execution was a testament to the fact that Balvin handles the messy parts of a concert with as equal grace as his applause-worthy performance.
Notable was the way in which Balvin reacted to screaming fans at the end of each song – a bowed head, a giddy smile or hands joined in prayer. His mannerisms made it obvious that the international megastar hasn’t forgotten about his humble roots in Medellín, Colombia. At numerous occasions, he expressed how grateful he was, displaying a humility consistent with his off-stage persona.
Although the instrumentals and visuals stood out for most of the show, Balvin’s vocals took the spotlight on tracks including “No Es Justo” and “Ahora.” The synergy of talent, both by headliner and supporting crew, was channelized toward creating an exuberant show centered around “la buena vibra,” or “the good vibe.” Recent fan favorites like “Safari” and “X” elicited hysteria, and even sorrowful songs like “Ay Vamos” were met with enthusiastic dancing.
And while jocular energy dominated the show, Balvin didn’t hesitate to bring sensuality onstage. Apart from being flanked by skilled dancers at almost all times, Balvin received a lap dance to “Downtown” Brazilian pop princess Anitta. Flashing red lights and the duo’s lucid silhouette on the screen contributed to a mood that felt more seductive and sophisticated than the remainder of the show. The crowd’s roars were perhaps loudest when three women from the audience danced on stage with Balvin – or more accurately put, on him.
One of Balvin’s rules for the show later came into fruition – a fan hurled her bra on to the stage, leaving him to lift it up with an amused countenance. He proceeded to introduce his biggest 2018 hit and one of the night’s final songs, “I Like It.” The number was backed by an inflated palm tree taking center stage, and animated visuals of his collaborators Cardi B and Bad Bunny that were jarring yet fitting.
Minutes later, the show supposedly ended without Balvin having sung “Mi Gente” – an overt cue to expect an encore. In a heartwarming transition, the DJ recited names of several Latin American countries, audience members from each one screaming as their nation was called. Balvin emerged once more in a giant dinosaur egg accompanied by dancing skeletons to perform the global party anthem that realized his vision of bringing Latin music into the mainstream. Of course, the eccentric display didn’t feel out of place for a second, and instead served as a bold and well-assimilated finish that solidified Balvin’s reputation as a dreamer, lover and child at heart. The Los Angeles stop of the “Vibras Tour,” ultimately, was a vivacious opportunity for fans to dream in color alongside Balvin.