Birthday over-celebrators are among the most irritating people on the planet. But we must extend a pass to one Jennifer Lopez, who’s marking a milestone go round the sun with a giddy and garish arena-shaking spectacle that would come off as being obnoxious in the hands of anyone else.
Nearing the end of its North American leg after starting in early June, the “It’s My Party” tour fetes J. Lo’s 50th year, and a career that’s seen her ascend from blue-collar backup dancer to multi-hyphenate global icon. Lopez is not the first mega-star to make her nut insisting that mega-stardom hasn’t changed her, but few have leaned into this premise so convincingly. Her scrappy Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx origin story remains the most dominant aspect of her identity, and she drew deeply from this well throughout a two-plus-hour performance at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night.
Lopez, technically still in her 40s until Wednesday, revealed herself to a sell-out Wells Fargo Center crowd in ludicrous Las Vegas fashion, dangling above the stage in a gleaming tambourine suspended from a multi-tiered chandelier of champagne flutes.
Decked out in a nude-colored, bedazzled number that threw light like a disco ball — “It’s a birthday suit,” the diva quipped demurely as she offered fans a slo-mo 360 at the foot of the stage — she opened with “Medicine,” supported by an octet of shirtless male backup dancers who sashayed through their choreo gripping white sousaphones.
With that energetic new single checked off, Lopez wasted no time leaping into past smashes “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” and “Get Right,” before donning backless black coveralls for 2018’s “Dinero,” the swaggering Spanish-language number-one that exemplifies her contemporary foray into the exploding Latin trap sound. But there was plenty of OG fan service to come, in the form of “Ain’t It Funny,” 20-year-old debut single “If You Had My Love” and “Jenny From the Block,” the last of which featured Lopez vibing in front of a pulsating neon mockup of the “6” NYC subway train she made famous.
“Should we take this party to the strip club?” Lopez next asked the maniacal crowd, at once marketing her role in the upcoming film Hustlers and setting the mood for a sexed-up interlude that saw her and her animal print-clad dancers gifting a mane-whipping lap dance to a lucky attendee. Earlier this month, at Madison Square Garden, World Cup champion and Delran native Carli Lloyd got her turn in the heel-shaped hot seat. In Philly, it was a guy in jorts and Jordans named Ron. Ron seemed to really appreciate it.
This led to the caps-lock DRAMA portion of the evening. Lopez changed into a blood-red Marie Antoinette ball gown for covers of Sara Bareilles’ “Gravity,” the Selena classic “Si Una Vez,” and her own recent power ballad “Limitless,” which featured her being hoisted into the sky on wires and a brief duet with her 11-year-old daughter, Emme.
J. Lo did right by her Spanish-speaking fans for the final third of the show, serving up such tracks as “Te Gusté,” her single recorded with fellow Borinqueño Bad Bunny, and “El Anillo,” enhanced by a mass of incredible performers featured on her NBC show World of Dance. Here and throughout, it was clear Lopez’s vocals were being heavily subsidized by live background singers and a pre-recorded backing track, but this is a concession that’s easy to overlook as you watch the tireless quinquagenarian nail complex salsa footwork on the lid of a piano, never once tripping over the billowing Versace-inspired superhero cape she knotted on for the occasion.
“This party don’t stop! This celebration don’t stop! Ms. Jennifer Lopez never stops!” bellowed her equally indefatigable DJ as the show starting inching toward its logical conclusion. She really doesn’t. After barreling through club anthems “Waiting for Tonight” and “On the Floor,” she ended on a set-punctuating “Let’s Get Loud,” which saw her rising to the rafters on a birthday cake-shaped platform, buttressed by writhing black-and-white Carnivale fantails color-coordinated to her checkerboard mini-dress. J. Lo could get away with this at any age, but 50 seems as good a year as any to prove it.