In order to celebrate their independence on September 15, Mexicans have many traditions. There’s eating chile en nogada, going to a fireworks show, or watching a live mariachi band performance. People also tend to gather outside of their local city halls to “dar el grito,” or give the call of independence, shouting “viva Mexico” and other patriotic sentiments. It has also become very traditional to travel to Las Vegas for “el grito,” something the non-Mexican city has been embracing for decades, dedicating entire events to this demographic like the epic Luis Miguel and Alejandro Fernandez shows hosted almost every year.
This is a fact that probably didn’t escape the organizers of NEON in Las Vegas, who got none other than the king of Latine streaming J Balvin to headline their first-ever travel experience over the “el grito” weekend. The event was so popular that at an average $800 per person, it sold out the 9,000 tickets available within the first 45 minutes of going on sale. Two more weekends had to be added to meet the demand — and they also sold out.
“The biggest pop star in the world is arguably J Balvin,” Latin Content Lead for Pollen, the event’s organizer, Ian Ruzal-Bron told Remezcla and other press at a brunch before the event. This was the general attitude leading up to his Saturday set at AYU Dayclub. Balvin opened the show with a slew of his global hits back-to-back: “Mi Gente,” “Reggaetón,” “X,” “Con Altura,” among them. For a Vegas show, it would’ve made sense to appeal to a wider club crowd with the songs that brought him the most recognition. But he wasn’t playing a random club on the strip – people paid hefty price tags and traveled specifically to see him. Though the crowd reacted positively to these songs, the energy built up progressively, reaching its true apex once Balvin got to his Latin American hits. When “Ahí Vamos,” “Bonita,” and “Otra Vez” rolled out, the crowd finally sang every word at the top of their lungs and danced just like the first live show post-lockdown deserved.
“After quarantine, I realized I’m a fan of my fans,” Balvin told the audience in between songs. In an interview with Remezcla a few weeks ago, the “Que Locura” singer revealed that before JOSE, he didn’t like listening to his own discography. But his newest album, he shared, contains the type of songs he likes to listen to. Off of that record, Balvin thrived on stage while performing the bangers “Una Nota” and “F40.”
Through his many collaborations, the crowd served as the perfect featuring artist, singing Bad Bunny’s verses on “La Canción,” “Mojaita,” and “Yo Le Llego,” to which Balvin took a moment to shout out the people from different Latin American countries. Mexico, of course, drew the biggest reaction. Maybe it was the crowd’s overwhelming energy and Balvin feeding off of that, but for songs he doesn’t like listening to, he sure seemed to be enjoying himself as he plowed through classics like “Ginza” and songs off Colores, “Morado” and “Rojo.”
Other performers during the weekend included La Bichota herself Karol G, who talked about thinking her career had peaked after “Tusa” and would not be able to surpass the hit because of the pandemic; Mr. Song of the spring and summer Rauw Alejandro ignited the Vegas strip with a live performance of “Todo De Ti;” and Jhay Cortez sang some tracks off his newest record “Timelezz” and shared the stage with Balvin for a couple of performances.
These events headlined by J Balvin in Vegas throughout September were just the firsts of more to come. J Balvin Neon will also be taking place this December in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, including performances by Sech and Mariah Angeliq, and in Cancun, Mexico next January with El Alfa, Feid, and Tokischa.