The sense of excitement rising up from the crowd was palpable, long before Armando Christian Perez, better known as Pitbull, appeared on stage at the Mark G. Etess Arena at the brand new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City on Saturday night. And only part of it had to do with the upcoming performer.
Hard Rock, which opened its doors to the public last week on the same day as Ocean Casino Resort, has created an enthusiasm in Atlantic City and beyond that has not been felt since the first pair of dice were rolled in the late 1970s. Touted as having the largest collection of music memorabilia in the world, A.C.’s Hard Rock has also brought with it world-class restaurants and an enviable list of headliners.
Inaugural weekend musical festivities included a kick-off concert by country music megastar Carrie Underwood and a free performance by E Street Band drummer and native New Jerseyan Max Weinberg on Friday night, followed by Pitbull on Saturday.
And the eager audience, consisting mostly of 20- to 50-somethings, with most 50-somethings dressed like 20-somethings, was not only ready, but willing and able to keep the party going.
Chants of “Pitbull! Pitbull!” began about 20 minutes after the superstar was to have begun the show. Twenty minutes after that, he arrived. And what an arrival.
The theme from “Miami Vice” blared from speakers as a recorded announcement introduced Pitbull as a “Visionary,” “Educator” and “Motivational Speaker,” among other titles, and someone who turns “don’t into do, can’t into can, impossible to possible.” Like New Year’s Eve, a countdown indicated the mere seconds until he would finally come on stage, surrounded by a frenzied fury of fireworks. Impeccably dressed in an all-black tuxedo tailored suit, Pitbull looked more like he was heading toward a stuffy black tie gala, and not the exciting, sweat-producing, scream-inducing show he was about to put on. He was surrounded by his band and a DJ, plus a half dozen scantily dressed backup dancers who, except for exiting for a few quick costume changes, kicked, dipped, spun and shook their mostly exposed booties throughout the entire 90-minute show.
Pitbull, aka Mr. Worldwide or Mr. 305 – a nod to his hometown of Miami – did not let his audience down.
There is nothing subtle about Pitbull as a performer and his performance was nothing short of electric.
Pit’s repertoire included hit after hit like “Timber,” “Feel This Moment,” “Echa Pa’lla,” “Don’t Stop the Party,” “Time of Our Lives” and what he called “some old-school Pitbull,” “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho).”
While Pit himself isn’t what one would call a dancer by any means, he does have some serious swagger, including some smooth and precisely timed tugs of his suit jacket to his signature head bob.
Stunning visuals glowed and pulsated from video screens to each song from Art Deco designs, disco balls, rainbow-colored prisms, flames for, of course, “Fireball,” and pouring rain, naturally, for “Rain Over Me.”
Song after song, Pitbull delighted the audience while talking to them in between each, a la an intimate cabaret show, offering frequent motivational messages, an occasional Spanish lesson, and numerous thank yous to the crowd for “spending their hard-earned money” to be there and to the executives of Hard Rock for inviting him. He continued to remind the audience that they were experiencing history – not because they were witnessing a Pitbull show, but because those Hard Rock execs “pulled off the impossible” and “made something out of nothing,” creating the newest resort in the already-vast Hard Rock family.
Pitbull, who began his musical career as a rapper, had something to say to his critics who wonder why he doesn’t rap anymore. “I rapped to get out of the streets, not to stay in them.”
Despite a super sexy and thoroughly fun show, Pitbull – who couldn’t stop smiling - was humble throughout, consistently thanking all for being there and giving him the opportunity to perform. As fireworks went off and cannons spat out enough confetti to fill the entire arena, Pitbull bid Hard Rock Atlantic City good-bye. After a performance like that, it’s safe to assume, he’ll be back.