A couple of songs into Juanes’ 90-minute muscular concert at AVA Thursday night, the Colombian rocker turned to Bob Marley’s reggae classic “Could You Be Loved” — anchored by a banjo.
That’s probably the first time local Latino pop-rock fans were treated to a surprising musical twist using the iconic American instrument. However, if his followers were worried that their stalwart, boyish looking performer would deviate from the script and dabble in improvisation and playful creativity, they didn’t have to worry.
Juanes stayed true and on track, mixing his well-worn hits, “Fijate Bien,” “La Camisa Negra” and “Yerbatero” with less familiar songs to keep the adoring crowd singing along and dancing in their seats, on the lawn or wherever they could find a space.
There’s nothing wrong with that. If awards are handed out for placating money-paying fans, Juanes wins going away.
The 40-year-old Juanes was a hard rocker in his younger days with Ekhymosis, his one-time heavy metal group. But with a stylish, close cropped summer hair cut, Juanes fits the image of a handsome, charming balladeer whose pleading, vulnerable vocals on “Volverte a Ver” and “Es Por Ti” satisfies his fans and leaves them wanting more of the same or a hip shaking number, regardless if it’s cumbia light.
Currently touring the U.S. with 12 musicians and singers, Juanes holds the mantle of a Latin American pop idol. Dressed in dark jeans, black short sleeve T-shirt and, for a short time, a black leather jacket, the small but muscular Juanes looks like the big rock star that he his.
He has sold millions of records and like AVA at Casino del Sol, sells out venues for his live performances.
The current tour, called Loud and Unplugged, resembles his 2012 “MTV Unplugged” recording, the multi-Grammy Award winner had strong backing from his precise and snappy supporting cast, representing several Latin American countries, who added rippling texture to his engaging and easy-going stage presence.
While Juanes the singer has made an international name for himself as Juanes the activist for his public positions and pronouncements against the use of land mines on civilians and his support pro-environmental causes, he remained quiet on those matters and other socials issues. Instead he gave a shout out to someone in the audience and his fellow Colombianos, said he was happy to have returned to Tucson after several years and yelled out “Tucson” too many times.
That pleased his fans.