Colombian artist J Balvin played a sold-out concert at London's O2 Academy Brixton on Jan. 28. With the global success of his recent smash "Mi Gente," the reggaetonero on the rise was able to take his show across the pond to a crowd that felt like a United Nations of fans.
Last year, J Balvin was one of two Latin artists to take their Spanish-language track into the top five of both the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and the U.K. singles charts. Thanks to Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito," ears around the world opened up to reggaeton music like it was the genre's mid-2000s boom all over again. Balvin capitalized on the opportunity with Willy William and their bananas banger "Mi Gente" that called for people from all walks of life to come together and celebrate. Eventually, pop superstar Beyoncé felt moved to jump on the remix.
"Mi Gente" was so massive that J Balvin was able to book headlining shows in Europe. Prior to playing London, he performed at venues in Paris and the Netherlands. Throughout his show at the O2 Academy Brixton, Balvin spoke to the crowd in Spanish and English while rocking his sparkling tracksuit. "Proud to be Latino everywhere I go pero también proud of being a human being," he said. "Estoy aquí con todo mi gente." ("I'm here with all my people.") Balvin noticed the diverse makeup of the crowd that included Brits, Portuguese, Colombian, Argentinean and French people just to name a few (my Mexican-American self included).
J Balvin's set had a bit of everything for the global crowd from his Latin remixes of Justin Bieber's "Sorry" and French Montana's "Unforgettable" to his single from "The Fate of the Furious" soundtrack, "Hey Ma." Like the name of his recent album, Energía, he was high-energy, working the stage with his moves from that switched from slick to sexy to adorably grandpa-like. Balvin also unloaded his catalog of reggaeton hits ranging from early ones like "Tranquila" and "6AM" to the more recent "Ay Vamos," "Bobo" and "Ginza." One of his special guests included Brazilian artist MC Fioti who came through with their remix of "Bum Bum Tam Tam."
The sold-out audience was moving and singing back to J Balvin throughout the night, especially to his recent Latin trap music collaborations like "Si Tu Novio Te Deja Sola." He even had them repeating the words to his newest club banger "Machika" featuring Brazil's Anitta and Aruban act Jeon, who joined him onstage. The song that united everyone in the place that night, "Mi Gente," was the grand finale that brought the house down and inspired a full-on dance party.
J Balvin is breaking down borders and bringing Latin music into the fold and his show in London was testament to the pull he's earning around the world. The man of the gente commanded the crowd with humility and his loose style while keeping the place hyped-up. Even with the language barrier for some, Balvin translated a good time into a universal experience.