Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine, Monday March 31, 1997

Burswood Superdome, Perth

One would have thought that Gloria Estefan had far outgrown the Latino strut and golden shimmer of Miami Sound Machine. Still technically their lead singer, she has overshadowed the big Florida party band sound with her solo accolades and through the synthesiser-swelled conservatism of love balladry and tales of broken hearts.

But intimacy begone! For the Destiny tour is big and brassy and finely balanced between the bombast of Miami Sound Machine’s cruise ship disco and Estefan’s astutely placed crooning. A big show, a loud show, all pivoted upon a pint-sized Cuban diva.

The rows and rows and rows of seated folk therefore looked a little stunned as the sixteen-piece MSM started a dance party by their smouldering fireplace. Like an amphetamine-charged episode of The Love Boat, Estefan and band glammed their way through their opening four songs including Congo (as seen by billions at the Atlanta Olympics closing ceremony) and Get On Your Feet. Estefan’s natural pop voice and playful demenour alternately wowed and frightened the assembled, many who thought they may have accidently stumbled into their prepubescent daughter’s bedroom. That is, if said daughter wore a see-through, slinky black number and had fourteen chesty and tanned men, grinning like fools, flirting and playing tag with her.

The beauty was that Estefan had the uncanny ability to change the pace decisively. Several slow “medleys of disfunctional relationships” surfaced throughout, but combinations of Anything For You, Don’t Want To Lose You and Destiny lay increasingly well alongside the big Miami anthems of Rhythm Is Going To Get You and Everlasting Love – the latter producing a couple of queens to mass eyebrow raising. “Why are you so shocked?” she enquired of the audible “humph” and snicker from the crowd. “I thought Priscilla came out of here.”

With her attempted Australian parochialism a couple of generations awry from her actual audience, Estefan’s Spanish selections were a lot more successful. Mi Tierra, Con Los Anos and Muntuno came bundled with an introduction welcoming the Spanish speakers in the audience, and an astoundingly arrhythmic Oye Mi Canto showcasing the breadth of the band’s musicianship. Especially noteworthy were the bass drive and songwriting of Jorge Casas, whose bass formed the rhythm section with up to nine drummers, the songwriting and keys of Clay Ostwald, whose work can also be found on the Evita soundtrack, the 12-string guitars of Rene Toledo and the shared vocals and percussion of Cheito Quinones.

It was in the periods that Estefan left the stage for a costume change that I couldn’t help but grind my teeth. The cheesy dance sequences were tolerable, including the tap section in which the grinning dancers looked to be wearing thongs, but when MSM simply cut into big band medleys of 70s disco classics I felt the urge to kill again. The flowing reappearance of Gloria would almost bring a tear of joy to my eye, her presence like a savior amongst the band’s primal urge to cover songs like a midday show ensemble.

For over two hours the pace abbed, flowed, boogied and cooed, Estefan using the big video screens to show slides of her baby Emily for the song Along Came You, chatting to her husband Emilio side of stage and introducing son Nayib for the drumming finale of the 1996 Olympic anthem, Reach. A massive ending, starting like its party beginnings, with Higher leading on to Reach where the stars descended through the floor of the stage for a secret group hug. Don’t be fooled by Estefan’s easy listening legacy, this was just one weird party.