Enrique - Manchester Apollo - 8.5.02

Isn't it ironic that as a thousand boy band and pop idol wannabe's prance around stages with overtly sexual dance routines, Enrique can provoke a reaction from a cross generational audience with the slightest move. Not that he doesn't play up to the role of the sexiest man that fell from heaven with more gyrations and crotch grabbing than post-Boyzone Ronan would know what to do with. If anything though Enrique's personal life is about as rock & roll as a monastery can get and as he freely admits his father chose one way of live (over 4000 sexual conquests no less) and he has chosen a more, lets say, solitary lifestyle.

Tonight, the first of two sold-out shows, is testament to both the hard work and pulling power of Enrique. Somewhat unbelievably it was "Hero" that saw him crossover from being just another latino artist with two albums behind him to being an international superstar who can command the likes of Anna Kournikova and Jennifer Love Hewitt in his video's. Its his latest album "Escape" that most of tonight's set is taken from with "One Night Stand" and "Love To See You Cry" seeming like old classics. Standing next to former singles like "Bailamos" or "Rhythm Divine" its not hard to see why Enrique can craft a career that will span decades while the novelty latino pop of Ricky Martin has disappeared of the face of the earth.

With this gig being both a celebration of the power of music and an extended party for Enrique who celebrates his 27th birthday at this very show, we get the a few choice cover versions to demonstrate that if you give him the song, he can put his voice to anything. Prince's "Purple Rain", Steve Miller Band's "The Joker" and Yazoo's "Only You" are all run through with the sort of professionalism that makes the Pop Idol heats look the amateur talent quest it actually is. Its only really the duet between Enrique and a backing singer on a cover of Whitney Houston's "Could I Have This Kiss Forever" which is cringe worthy, but none the less for anyone who was there we'd all love to be that backing singer each night.

Ending the show with "Hero", where he plucks a married lady from the audience to serenade, is the sort of things dreams are made of. The only real problem is how can she go back to Bob from Blackburn or Wayne from Wythenshawe after she's had her arms around Enrique. With every woman in the audience ready to throw their Marks & Spencer's knickers on stage its clear to see that Enrique is the nu-millenium answer to Tom Jones.

Alex McCann

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