A shriek rose from the depths of the cavernous Gund Arena as the house lights went down -- an impossibly high-pitched, glass-shattering, estrogen-overloaded roar of thousands of sexually excited ladies. The curtains parted, and the shriek intensified. And then he rose from beneath the stage, resplendent upon the hood of a snazzy Ford convertible, the faux-ska chords of "Livin' la Vida Loca" blasting through the speakers. He grinned, thrust his pelvis, and shook his bon-bon. And the shriek reached nuclear proportions, its massive depth and pressure threatening to implode the Gund. It was absolutely terrifying.
An international sex symbol, Ricky Martin has fully earned hood ornament status. For two hours of inhuman arena rock spectacle, he cemented his position as a one-man pop-star/Latin-crossover/teenage wrecking machine, blasting through dancefloor workouts and overblown ballads with superfluous panache. A full backup band complete with a horn section and a cache of mostly ineffectual backup dancers completed the larger-than-life illusion, which was buoyed by huge video screens, ascending/descending fire poles, and those moving sidewalks Martin's entourage probably stole from the airport.
Glorious excess aside, Martin struggled to control the circus he created. Early on, a backup dancer almost kicked him in the crotch trying to slither through his legs, and it took him a solid hour to bust out anything beyond the now-pedestrian pelvic thrusts popularized by the Backstreet Boys and university marching bands everywhere. At times his dancing reminded one of "Sprockets"-era Saturday Night Live. "And now is the time during "Maria' when we dance!"
As for the songs themselves, the "Livin' la Vida Loca" opener primed the crowd, while the ballad "Private Emotion" raised the swoon factor considerably, though the refrain, "private emotion," sounded suspiciously similar to "grinding motion." Oh well. Martin probably sells more tickets that way. Elsewhere, "I Am Made of You" gave Martin his requisite spiritual soul-searching moment -- at the song's conclusion, a mechanical platform lifted him from the stage up into the lights above. Yup. Martin ascended to heaven, but returned to sing "Shake Your Bon-Bon."
"Maria" and "The Cup of Life" received acceptably ultra-peppy, high-profile workouts. And then, during the encore, Martin appeared alone, lounging on a couch, clad in tasteful threads and stylish sandals, crooning "She's All I Ever Had." At that moment, the pretty boy looked as if he were just another lovesick college freshman bummin' on his futon, as he crooned an absurd dumbass love ballad. But within seconds, the lights, the flash, and the glorious excess returned. Like any good icon, Ricky Martin isn't supposed to look or act like you. He fills a specific role in our society: He's the over-the-top sex symbol. And all sappiness aside, his success or failure depends on the shriek and the shriek alone. But judging from its urgency and velocity at the Gund, it appears Martin is ready to ascend to heaven. Here's to hoping he goes soon and never comes back. -- Rob Harvilla
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
The Blue Hawaiians
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy doesn't come from New Orleans and has nothing to do with ancient Haitian rituals. So what's with the silly moniker? Apparently lead singer Scotty Morris, the founder of the group and its principal songwriter, heard the description in an old swing song and thought it had potential for the name of a group trying to revive the genre. Regardless of whether the name fits, the band has turned out to be one of the most popular groups of the neo-swing movement and at the Odeon proved that its talent is not just limited to the recording studio.
Playing mostly new songs from its latest record, This Beautiful Life -- including highlights "Who's That Creepin'" and "Big Time Operator" -- the group even turned in a playful cover of The Jungle Book's "I Want to Be Like You," performed in the movie by King Louie (you know, the fat, naked monkey that disturbed you even as a child). In an attempt to strike up conversation (or instigate a rivalry among boy bands), Morris told the audience he thought 98 Degrees is more talented than the Backstreet Boys. Whatever. Big Bad Voodoo is all about dancing, and as long as they kept the music going, the dancefloor was hopping.
The diverse crowd (which spanned all age groups) initially responded favorably to the opening act, the Blue Hawaiians. But after four songs that all sounded as though they were based on the same chord structures (i.e., slow surf-type riffs), the crowd grew restless. The endless solos didn't help matters, as each of the six members of the band took his turn center-stage. While the band, admittedly, is talented, the nature of its music and the long-winded solos ultimately were tedious. -- Brad Walsh
As far as supergroups go, Fantomas isn't likely to go down as one of the more commercially successful ones. The band, which includes former Faith No More singer Mike Patton, Mr. Bungle bassist Trevor Dunn, Melvins guitarist Buzz Osborne, and former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, released one of this year's stranger records with its self-titled debut. Much like the record, which is composed of 30 different unnamed tracks rather than actual songs, the band's set at Peabody's was a jumbled array of different sounds -- it was virtually impossible to figure out where one song ended and another began.
Serving as a conductor as much as a lead singer, Patton -- who resembled a cartoon character in the way he twisted his body and emulated the vocals of, say, Bugs Bunny or Porky Pig -- led the group on its twisted journey. At one minute screeching like a strangled cat and the next slipping into a smooth R&B baritone, Patton never stuck with one style of singing for too long. Using two microphones, an array of effects, and several electronic samples, he turned his voice into a demonic instrument. The speed-metal inclinations of Osborne and Lombardo, both of whom played heavy, pummeling riffs, provided the perfect accompaniment.
While the erratic nature of the music and Patton's indecipherable lyrics were generally abrasive, the band deserved credit for never lapsing into the predictable and playing what could be considered jazz (in the John Zorn sense of the word) to a mostly male crowd that had clearly piled into Peabody's to rock out. -- Jeff Niesel