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Review: Pitbull and Ke$ha at Gexa Energy Pavilion

Posted 1:16pm on Monday, Jun. 24, 2013

You don’t watch a Pitbull concert so much as acquiesce.

With a fearsome determination and affable relentlessness, the man born Armando Perez simply wears you down over the course of 80 minutes. You will have fun, even if you are determined not to have fun.

Sunday night at Gexa Energy Pavilion, an ecstatic, overheated mass of humanity sprawled out before him, Pitbull put the metaphorical pedal to the metal and didn’t let up until everyone within earshot was dancing with abandon.

A polished, precise piece of pop-rap machinery, Pitbull’s full-bore set, which took care to feature every video he’s ever appeared in on the LED screens behind his seven-piece band and a small phalanx of back-up dancers, screamed through the hits, including his latest contribution to Jennifer Lopez’s new single Live It Up.

It’s within the lyrics to that song that the 32-year-old Miami native lays bare his M.O.: “I know it’s hard to understand how a boy grew to a man/Man turned to a brand/But guess what, here I am.”

And that’s it — the dark, sweat-drenched suit; the copious shout-outs in Spanish; the leering objectification of his scantily clad dancers; the splashes of Latin brass amid thumping, club-ready beats that could be clearly heard from two miles away — all of it is in service of maintaining Pitbull’s brand, as the go-to good time guy, at ease in corporate boardrooms or shouting “Dale” at screaming fans, with whom he shares an almost tangible connection. (The woman to the right of me didn’t stop dancing until Pitbull left the stage, looking for all the world like she was auditioning for a remake of Flashdance.)

It’s an admirable, up-from-his-bootstraps narrative, and one which almost feels genuine amid all of the flash. As he said during one of the rare pauses in his breakneck show, “To the haters, we do what we do because we don’t care.” The very next song featured a lyric with a colorful profanity, helpfully censored on the video screens. Ever mindful of the brand, Pitbull is, but don’t let it stop you from giving yourself over to this Cuban-American juggernaut.

Pitbull shared the bill with fellow radio dominator Ke$ha Sunday, although her opening, 60-minute set was at the opposite end of the spectrum. Granted, the 26-year-old singer-songwriter has carved a niche all her own — major label weirdo — and made sure no one intrudes.

While not quite as unhinged as her 2011 stop at Dallas’ House of Blues, the Los Angeles native nevertheless managed to create some retina-searing moments, including, at one point, a pair of men dressed as American flag-waving penises, as well as a handful of her dancers dressed as animals.

All the heavy rotation favorites were present and accounted for — Tik Tok; Blow; Blah Blah Blah — and she even ended her performance with Die Young, a song she protested immediately after the Newtown school shootings last year. It struck a fantastically hypocritical note, and left something of a sour taste.

Maybe the business-savvy Pitbull can school her in the ways of staying on message, even if that message is “Have any of you guys ever felt like a sabertooth tiger?”

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones

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