WINNIPEG — Pitbull put the bite on Winnipeg Saturday night.
The Miami artist turned the MTS Centre into the large-scale equivalent of a Canad Inns club (the Tijuana Yacht Centre, perhaps?) and got 9,000 excited fans dancing in their seats to a mix of hip-hop, electro-pop and Cuban-flavoured dance music with plenty of samples by other artists thrown in for good measure.
The sharply dressed 31-year-old and his six-piece band came out firing with the poppy single Hey Baby (Drop it to the Floor), concluding with the guitar riff of Lenny Kravitz’s Are You Gonna Go My Way.
Whether that was a subliminal question or not it was clear the crowd was on his side and followed him wherever he led them, from the defiant auto-biographical tracks Triumph and Can’t Stop Me Now to the sexy party anthems Move Shake Drop and Krazy to the pop-oriented Let It Rain. Pitbull is known for collaborating with numerous artists and he included some of them -- Marc Anthony, Usher, Ne-Yo, etc. -- in the background throughout the night.
There were also plenty of tributes – some would call it filler -- to other artists, throwing in songs by LMFAO and Black Eyed Peas and guitar riffs from Nirvana and Guns N’ Roses. Harry Belafonte even got some love with Jump in the Line used as a melodic sample in Pitbull’s Shake Senora.
He showed off some of his Cuban heritage on Bon Bon, singing in Spanish, and further expanded on that with a tune that sounded like it was borrowed from the Miami Sound Machine songbook as his two percussionists played syncopated rhythms while he rapped.
Mr. Worldwide, as he has dubbed himself, is known for his GQ style, but the only flash from his stage show was some smoke cannons and an intense light show, which kept the club vibe going with plenty of strobes and rotating beams. There were three video screens, but other than risers for the band there was nothing else on stage, which gave Pitbull plenty of room to roam the stage and jump around, which he urged the crowd to do often.
He got the crowd singing along on I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho), I Like it and Hotel Room Service, finishing off his 73-minute set by asking the crowd to give him everything for Give Me Everything, which they obediently did.
Flo Rida made sure the crowd knew he was up next with a splashy video intro of him at a race track which concluded on stage with four female dancers with checkered flags grooving around in a billow of smoke before the man himself casually strolled on staged decked out in a red racing suit and helmet.
He removed the helmet, grabbed a microphone with a sparkling shield and launched into the oral sex-themed hit Right Round which samples the hook from Dead or Alive’s 1984 single You Spin Me Round (Like a Record).
The Florida rapper, his six piece band and female backup vocalist touched on all the high points of his short but productive career to date and made sure everyone in the building was on his or her feet, getting them bouncing for In the Ayer and Who Dat Girl, or grinding for Low, with each song having a giant hook that was impossible to resist.
"There are so many beautiful ladies in the building tonight," he said to his co-MC at one point between songs, and invited about 30 of them on stage to dance and sing the "mmm-dada" call and response of Turn Around.
He would return the favour later by springing up in the lower bowl and dancing with some female admirers for I Gotta Get Ya before getting back on the stage, taking off his denim jacket (he had changed out of his racing suit) and showing off his muscular build to shoot champagne in the crowd before launching into the banger, Club Can’t Handle Me.
Yes, it was that kind of party (and no surprise if you’ve paid any attention to his lyrics).
Flo Rida’s 45-minute set ended with the one-two punch of his two latest singles, the sexy Wild One, performed with his female backup vocalist, and the anthem Good Feeling, which found him back in the audience to gyrate with his fans who were feeling great by that time.