Tel Aviv Concert Shows Iglesias Needs Singing and Latin Lessons

The Spanish singer was great at striking a pose, not so good at delivering a tune in gig at Harkon Park on Sunday

Enrique Iglesias performing in Yarkon Park, Tel Aviv, May 27, 2018.
\ Ilan Assayag

What a difference a year makes when it comes to gigs in Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park.

Last summer, the park was on fire. It hosted performances by Guns N’ Roses, Britney Spears, Radiohead and Justin Bieber.

And this year? Barring last-minute developments, it will be home to only two concerts, both by Latin pop stars: Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias, who performed on Sunday; and Colombian singer Maluma, set to appear on June 28.

It’s not just the number of performances; it’s also the number of people at each event. Last summer’s concerts truly brought out the masses, with 50,000 to 60,000 people at each gig. On Sunday – and the same will be true next month – the park’s concert area was arranged in its smallest possible configuration.

And what about the quality? Perhaps at least in this regard summer 2018 will give the previous summer a run for its money?

Not on this evidence. Iglesias’ concert was the type that slips from your mind the moment the last pieces of confetti have landed on the lawn and the pop star has left the stage to ask his manager, “Remind me what country we’re in tomorrow?”

Iglesias is far from being a standout singer. This was clear even before the performance – and expectations were set accordingly. Nevertheless, it was at least possible to hope for a reasonable rendition of the songs. But that didn’t happen.

Iglesias was exposed in all his nakedness as a singer. He has very little vocal presence and little expression, if any. Only when his percussionist joined him in song during the last 10 minutes of the set was it possible to finally enjoy some decent Latin music.

In contrast, when it came to attention-grabbing behavior on stage, Iglesias went above and beyond. My impression was that he invested about 10 times as much effort in this as he did in his actual singing.

He particularly loves standing in front of the audience in some photogenic pose, playing with his hat and acting as if he were stunned and overcome by the love heaped upon him. From time to time, he was so “overcome” by this that he had to collect himself by sitting down.

Fans cheer as Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias performs on stage in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 27, 2018.
Ariel Schalit/AP

At the end of the song “El Perdón,” he fell to his knees, bowed his head to the floor and didn’t get up for two or three minutes, repeatedly beating the stage with his fists. I doubt anyone in the audience believed this shtick. But perhaps plausibility isn’t seen as important at pop concerts. It made for a good photo, it made an impression – and that’s what counts.

If you ignore the almost amusing gap between its limited artistic value and its exaggerated photogenic worth, Iglesias’ performance checked most of the boxes for a winning performance in the park, or at least a professional one.

The product was carefully manufactured; the troupe played its part as required; and erecting a small stage in the area between the Golden Ring and the cheaper lawn seats was brilliant. Even from the standpoint of content, whenever the concert entered deep into Latin-Reggaeton territory, the music suddenly sounded the way it should – sharp and lively.

Even in these songs Iglesias didn’t excel vocally. Still, he had partners who turned them into a celebration of song and collective movement – the percussionist noted above; the Cuban singer Descemer Bueno (who also wrote the megahit “Bailando”); and local pride Rotem Cohen, who joined Iglesias and Descemer in singing “Súbeme la Radio” and did so superbly. (His earlier show was also good.)

Toward the end of the concert, during the ballad “Hero,” Iglesias brought an emotional, weepy girl onto the stage. “How old are you?” he asked. “Sixteen,” she replied. “From Tel Aviv?” “No, Netivot.” Iglesias hugged her, danced with her, kissed her, was photographed with her, lifted her up.

For him, these were the automatic motions of a charmer. For her, it was an emotional highlight. It’s fascinating to observe how the same event can be both completely fake and simultaneously totally real.