Maluma aka Juan Luis Lodoño Arias is one of the biggest stars in the world right now. The singer, songwriter and actor has worked with some of the biggest stars in the world such as Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira and Ricky Martin, and his jaw-dropping work effort has seen him release a jaw-dropping amount of music. A huge star in Latin America, Maluma has worked hard to expand his reach and his latest visit to the UK, as part of his ‘Papi Juancho World Tour’, saw him play his biggest venue here yet – The O2 Arena. The last time Maluma was in the UK was in 2018 when he performed at Wembley Arena and he was originally due to return in 2020 as part of his ‘11:11 World Tour’, which was postponed due to the COVID pandemic.
Last night marked the second time I’ve seen Maluma live and like the first time, the thing I noticed immediately is the energy of the crowd. While the audience waited for Maluma to take to the stage, which was in the middle of the arena for an ‘in-the-round’ experience, they happily partied and danced to the numerous reggaeton hits that blasted out of the speakers. Barely anyone sat down for the entire night and it’s an energy unlike anything I’ve ever experienced outside of a Maluma concert.
Arriving on stage at around 8.45pm to loud cheers and screams, Maluma kicked off with his monster hit ‘Hawái’ and he looked every inch the superstar decked out in a glittery pink coat with pink gloves and trousers to match. Surrounded, of course, by his troupe of female dancers, Maluma unleashed that distinctive and powerful voice of his and the audience was putty in his hands. He stopped singing just moments into the song to allow the audience to sing the words, and they knew every single one (to every single song all night). You could see the pride on his face that his dream to take Spanish-language music global without compromising by singing in English was truly paying off.
For the next 90 minutes or so, the pace was relentless with Maluma moving from one song to the next, each a certified banger that had the audience screaming with excitement. The double-whammy of ’11:11’ singles ’11 PM’ and ‘HP’ were early highlights as was the infectious ‘Mama Tetema’, a song originally recorded by Tanzanian artist Rayvanny before Maluma remixed it. After performances of his collaborations ‘Djadja’ (recorded with Aya Nakamura) and ‘Hola señorita’ (recorded with Gims), Maluma left the stage for a costume change while ‘Qué Chimba’ played and his dancers entertained.
Returning to the stage after that interlude, Maluma was accompanied by a pianist and he sang his hit ‘ADMV’. Stripped-back and free from the reggaeton production that features in many of his songs, ‘ADMV’ sounded incredible and it allowed the audience to appreciate what Maluma can do as a vocalist. He doesn’t use his full range in his songs often but when he delivers a ballad, you can really hear that emotion and technique, and it’s incredibly impressive.
The tempo picked up again after that moment as Maluma gave a tour-de-force run through of some of his best-known hits. The monster smash ‘Felices los 4’ sent the audience into a frenzy as did recent single ‘Sobrio’, which featured some inventive choreography for Maluma and his dancers. Hitting the home stretch, Maluma brought the house down with ‘Vente pa’ca’, his hit with Ricky Martin, and the classic ‘Chantaje’, which was originally recorded with Shakira. The penultimate song of the night was ‘Cuatro Babys’, which saw Maluma singing while being hoisted up inside the video screen box that hung over the stage. It was an incredibly powerful moment to witness. Bringing the show to a close, Maluma did a reprise of ‘Hawái’, which received an even bigger reception than it did at the beginning of the show.
Seeing Maluma live is truly witnessing an artist at the very top of his game. Having resisted the pressure to release dual-language music, Maluma is redefining what a pop artist in the modern age looks like and he’s proof that language doesn’t have to be a barrier (there were plenty of people in the audience last night that didn’t speak Spanish). Oozing charisma, Maluma is mesmerising to watch on stage and you get the sense that despite his huge fame, success and wealth, he hasn’t forgotten where he came from or the fans that helped put him where he is now. By rights, Maluma should be topping the charts here in the UK and with the determination and talent he’s got, that feels like something that could happen sooner rather than later.
Set list: 1. Hawái 2. Madrid 3. Corazon 4. 11 PM 5. HP 6. Cositas de la USA 7. Mama Tetema 8. Djadja 9. Hola señorita 10. Qué Chimba (interlude) 10. ADMV 11. Felices los 4 12. Sobrio 13. Vente pa’ca 14. Chantaje 15. Cuatro Babys 16. Hawái (reprise) Performance date: 16th March 2022