[Originally published in DTM Magazine Issue #65; Jan-Feb 2010]
January 20, 2010 will, indisputably, go down in New York City history as the date that Aventura, the world’s most famous Bachata band, owned the night. More than 20,000 fans swarmed midtown Manhattan during the clear-skied, 35° evening for the first of four sold out concerts at Madison square garden, kicking off the final stretch of the Dominican quartet’s “The Last: The Tour” itinerary, which also includes a stop at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut on Jan. 30.
The manageable weather conditions consequently gave their fans (specifically those of the female variety), license to show off their voluptuous figures, thus giving the wandering eye plenty of work as Latin beauties virtually dominated the aesthetics of “The World’s Most Famous Arena” from its majestic 7th Avenue entrance to the upper-most tier of the theater.
Three tiers of lighting hung directly above a rotating stage, symmetrically positioned in the middle of the arena, where Aventura was merely moments away from performing. A harsh reminder of the devastation in Haiti, however, temporarily overtook excitement when their manager, Johnny Marines, stood alongside N.Y. State Senate President pro tempore Malcolm Smith to present a $50,000 check for the relief effort in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, the city at the epicenter of a magnitude 7.0 earthquake on Jan. 12 that, according to Haitian govt. sources, killed as many as 200,000 people. When Aventura – accompanied by a female vocalist and an auxiliary band – finally got on stage to a thunderous ovation, the four Bronx natives rocked the Garden with “Dile al Amor” and other hits from “The Last” before the group’s lead singer, Anthony “Romeo” Santos, too, took a moment to raise awareness of the catastrophe in Haiti.
“Our brothers and sisters in Haiti need your help; there are 20,000 people in this arena, and if each of you were to give one dollar, just one dollar, that would be $20,000.00 that could help the people of Haiti,” Anthony, 28, solemnly told the audience in Spanish. “Everyone in here can help.” It was a moment of solidarity not at all lost on the mostly Dominican and Puerto Rican crowd, and with the aplomb of a seasoned entertainer, Anthony segued back into concert-mode.
To everyone’s surprise, “The Kings of Bachata” were soon joined by Bernie Williams (yeah, that Bernie Williams), who is clearly as skilled a guitarist as he is as a New York Yankee center fielder. With that said, the apex of the evening – and there were quite a few climactic moments when you take into account the frenzied reactions to Aventura’s catalog of romantic hits, the myriad of debaucherous innuendos, and Romeo treating a Rubenesque blond to a lap dance – was Marc Anthony’s masterful rendition of “Aguanile.”
Aventura’s submission was one worthy of The City That Never Sleeps, as it was a performance indicative of how far Anthony (Romeo), Max Agende (bass), Lenny Santos (guitar) and Henry Santos Jeter (vocalist) have come. Frankly, if you go by the sheer electricity in the arena that night, combined with the profound consonance of 20,000 people reciting their lyrics verbatim, you would’ve never guessed that these were the same guys who received merciless criticism during the early 2000s for swimming against the cultural current by infusing Bachata with elements of hip hop & R&B music. The criticism is laughable now, of course, but it’s also why – till this very day – the barometer and symbol of Aventura’s success is their ability to come home and pack the site of their musical coronation.
“When we sold out the Garden for the first time, it felt very, very good to shut up the critics,” lead guitarist Lenny Santos, 30, told DTM Magazine before the concert. “People had to respect us. Even if they ain’t like us, or whatever, they had to respect us. On top of that, we had Antony Santos – ‘El Mayimbe,’ the godfather of Bachata – come on stage with us that night and actually crown us. He put crowns on our heads. That put the cherry on top with Antony Santos there to give us his blessing. It was beautiful.” His band mate, Anthony, had the same sentiment. “It was a big moment in the group’s career, because no bachatero had ever done a show at MSG alone; and not only did we do it alone, but we sold it out two weeks before the event,” said Romeo of the unprecedented March 10, 2006 concert.
“That night as MSG was very special; we were happy to be there with our fans and you could tell with our actions. When you are the first Bachata group to perform at Altos de Chavon, in the Dominican Republic, you have to make a statement.” “…We had a lot to prove that night.” Since that watershed moment, they haven’t looked back; their album, “The Last,” entered 2010 at #1 on the Billboard Top Latin Album chart for the 18th consecutive week, and their fourth concert in New York City, on Feb. 2nd, will make them the first-ever Latin music artists to play a four-night stand at MSG. The feat puts them in rarified territory with the likes of Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel as the only acts to have (at least) a four-night run at the Garden.
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