Pitbull is not only one of the greatest wordsmiths of his generation, he’s also one of the few entertainers in the world to bring together music fans of all different backgrounds, whether “pink or purple”, as he said at his sold-out headlining show Tuesday night at The Hollywood Bowl. And of course he wasn’t just talking about crayon colors, he genuinely loves to entertain and he does it among the glitz, the girls and the lights, giving off a feel of what nightclubs used to be: inclusive. Without a single featured artist —we’re talking about you Jennifer Lopez, Ne-Yo, Christina Aguilera, T-Pain, Kesha, and so many more — Pit was able to electrify the crowd with his hit songs, singing in both English and Spanish, giving a nod to Brazil and Carnival culture, adding a splash of his 305 love for Miami, to block party culture and to Los Angeles, which he exclaimed to his adoring fans twice that it’s his biggest market in the U.S.. And actor Andy Garcia was even in the crowd with his family.
“Don’t Stop The Party” was an appropriate show opener because seriously this thing did not stop, beyond a few moments where the DJ took over, likely for Pit to catch his breath. On “Don’t Stop The Party”, a bold “YEAH!” appeared on the screen with an Armando yacht and other nautical images while Pitbull appeared on the center riser with six dancers following shortly after, running around in his leather jacket, dancing, arms out at the end and a pop of red fireworks as he pounded his heart with his fist.
“The City of Angels, thank you for the love, thank you for the support, thank you for the opportunity”, said Pitbull. He shared that LA has been his top market throughout his whole career, and asked his fans, “Who came to party?” and they responded “We came to party!” after a little prompting.
Who came to party? We came to party! He said to crowd and they answered. Next was “Hey Baby (Drop It to the Floor)”, the T-Pain-assisted hit, with Pit’s six dancers jumping in unison with him, ending with fire and a guitar outro of Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” “Hotel Room Service” was not the only time Pitbull’s show felt like a full-blown Las Vegas spectacle, with the crowd chanting along to “We at the hotel, motel, Holiday Inn” with multi-colored neon lights and he even did a few bars a capella, getting the fans crazy. On the Chris Brown-featured “International Love”, the dancers did some serious gyrating while lights blazed high-speed freeways on the screen as Pitbull exclaimed, “I don’t play football but I’ve touched down everywhere, I don’t play baseball but I’ve hit a home run everywhere”.
A little Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” set the tone as the intro for Marc Anthony-assisted “Rain Over Me”, with the crowd getting into it with the “ay-yay-ay” chorus and Pitbull punch-conducted as smoke shot up during the danceable beats. “I remember in 2005 when nobody knew who I was, and I went on tour with Eminem, 50 Cent and Lil Jon brought me out”. Pitbull paid it forward with DJ/producer Chino joining him on “Discoteca”, which features a sample of ATC’s 2000 hit “Around The World (La La La La La)”, while both guys encouraged the audience to “put their hands in the air”.
“Music is the universal language, it unites, it doesn’t divide”, said Pitbull. “Music reminds us that we beat the same blood and breathe the same air. Music reminds us that there’s one race only and that’s the human race”. The message resonated with fans and after some applause Pitbull added that the next song is about getting rid of negative things in life, playing “Echa Pa’lla (Manos Pa’rriba)”, with the dancers back in slinky silver dresses and Pitbull took a moment to do some side stepping and salsa. It was blended with “Bon, Bon”, (which samples Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP’s “We No Speak Americano”), with Bon Bon bouncing on the screen in blue and white while Pitbull flashed his pearly whites and a Cheshire cat grin by the song’s end.
DJ Chino took over on the decks for a brief break from Mr. 305 playing everything from “(Whoomp!) There It Is” to Azealia Banks to James Brown’s “I Got You”, which was the perfect transition to Pitbull’s “I Feel Good”. Pit was now in short sleeves and his black vest, with the visuals a blend of behind-the-scenes life and career, clips from the club, the music video and fans, with the fans clapping along and incredible colors adorning the stage. Pitbull took the crowd to Brazil for the JLo-featured “On The Floor”, continuing with other massive hits including Enrique’s “I Like It”, where a dancer flipped over with her legs up, while Pitbull and his crew leaned on her like she was the bar at an Ocean Drive club. The hits continued with Usher’s “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love”, with the girls going wild on the floor, shaking their behinds and then Pitbull brought the fans to the block party for “Shake Senora” (which interprets Harry Belafonte’s “Jump In The Line”), lit up with amazing neon colors, palm trees and everything Miami including a 305 license plate. The party continued with Lil Jon-assisted “Anthem”, while the dancers moved in barely there red outfits and matching red leather boots continuing with another early Lil Jon smash, “Culo” while the crowd shouted the song’s title in unison. Bursts of turquoise and blue pulsed during the anthemic “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)” and a male break dancer took center stage for some flips and cartwheels while Pitbull took a brief breather.
“I didn’t graduate but I build schools”, shared Pitbull. He talked with his crowd about his teacher Hope Martinez who believed in him as a teenager and added that she was in the crowd. Pitbull mentioned that the break dancer who took the stage was Sergio, a dancer who went to one of the schools that he built with Martinez and the whole Bowl erupted in applause. Pitbull then dedicated the next part of the show to the soon-to-be-retired Daddy Yankee, performing their 2022 collaboration “Hot” with washing machines spinning behind the band followed by their early collab “Gasolina”, with the whole place dancing and just a brief moment of the production from “El Taxi” mixed in.
Pitbull talked about the 80s and how if you messed up there was no picture to document it, there simply was no need for perfection. “I got nothing against technology, just don’t let it use you. Live life, don’t let live live you. Fuck followers and likes, be a leader”, said Pitbull. The crowd cheered and he dedicated the next massive song “Feel This Moment” (which features Christina Aguilera) to the youth. A few moments of the instrumental of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” played for that 80s nostalgia and then the “Take On Me” a-ha sample took over on “Feel”, with the lyric “Ask for money, and get advice, ask for advice, get money twice” making an impact.
“Man, they say this is 20,000 but it looks like 100,000 to me”, said Pitbull. The roof was certainly on fire with the next one, and Pitbull and his band played “Fireball”, with flames shooting out of the top of the Hollywood Bowl and the dancers grinding in their red Vegas-ready outfits with hypnotic black and white images flashing behind them.
Another quick DJ Chino energy shot of “Apache (Jump On It)” by Sugarhill Gang, “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” and some other hip-hop throwbacks like “Jump” kept things moving and seriously the show could have ended right there at “Fireball”, but Pitbull had more hits to play. With the black cowboy hat on, and Pitbull saying “it’s about to go down”, it was clear “Timber” was next, with Kesha’s vocals elevating the moment, the dancers back in denim chaps and the whole place jumping and dancing along. “Every day above ground is a great day,” said Pitbull.
1998 nu-disco track “Music Sounds Better With You” played for a moment, prior to Ne-Yo-featured “Time of Our Lives”. “LA, thank you for the the love, for the support and for the opportunity”, said Pitbull again. “Thank you to Hope Martinez and Andy Garcia and his whole family”. He thanked the industry crew, radio stations and opener Iggy Azalea (who performed everything from “Problem” to “Fancy”). Pit’s other Ne-Yo-featured hit “Give Me Everything” got the closer slot following a brief moment of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”. The place was nuts for the inspiring dance-pop track (“Everything”) with an incredible firework show at the end. Pitbull thanked the production crew and his dancers and thanked fans in Spanish a few times as well. The fireworks continued after the musicians left the stage as Pitbull’s new 2022 tune “Café Con Leche” blasted on the speakers with confetti floating throughout the venue.
In 2013 at the Bowl, Pitbull featured Jennifer Lopez and Chris Brown, and it was impressive how Pitbull carried the entire show without one featured singer from his major hits (save DJ Chino). Pitbull gathers together one of the most diverse crowds in modern music, in a way that the nightclub used to be welcoming in America in many of the big cities. He’s not exactly an electronic artist, but at the same time he’s one of the biggest electronic artists out there, collaborating with numerous DJs, adopting sounds from hit dance tracks from decades past and infusing Latin, hip-hop, soul and pop into a collection of infectious hits. It’s also brilliant that since 2004’s “Culo” to “Calle Ocho” to “El Taxi” to “Café Con Leche” how Pit has consciously infused just a little bit of Spanish to non-speakers to grow the culture (and he’s arguably one of the major reasons for the recent explosion of Latin music), standing in as everyone’s cheerleader and fist-bumper no matter how “everybody going through something”. Rihanna may be set for Super Bowl LVII in 2023 and Taylor Swift isn’t far off from getting her own, but next time NFL and Apple Music are looking for a male superstar to command the stage, look no further than Mr. 305.
Words by Michael Menachem
All photos by Randall Michelson/Hewitt Silva-Live Nation