A wintry school night, a vast, freezing club on Santiago's outskirts, a small crowd stiffly sidestepping to 90's hits and an opening speech that left the singer asking, "Does anyone here understand me?" Haddaway was facing a tough night.
Photo by Solange Reyes Poblete
Scantily clad (in comparison to his heavily-coated audience) in black with a Chippendale-style short sleeve shirt and loosened tie, the singer defied the language barrier and transformed a half-empty club full of chilly Chileans into a foot-stamping, arm-waving mob in under an hour (see photos).
Although a heartfelt rendition of "I Miss You" generated some initial swaying, it was Haddaway's impressive vocal power coupled with the pumping bass line of “Rock My Heart” that managed to fill the half-empty hall and get everyone’s feet tapping.
While his male fans were elbowing each other to take a mobile phone picture of the gyrating backup singers that made cafe con piernas waitresses look overdressed, the singer sexed it up to his female audience with covers including Tom Jones’ “Sex Bomb” and Grace Jones’ (no relation to Tom) “Pull Up To My Bumper.”
He finally won the crowd over by the trusty mix of Spanglish and physical humor relied on by gringos worldwide. His shameless flirting, strutting and Michael Jackson inspired crotch grabbing showed signs of a true performer that knows his gig is more cabaret than concert, playing up to chants of “rico” (hot) and “la camisa” (shirt, whose existence the female fans definitely disapproved of).
By the end of the show Haddaway had whipped up such frenzy that even male fans were clawing at his trouser leg and jostling to get a stroke of his shiny shoes like he was a deity. Likewise, lusty Chilenas had suddenly grown the strength of ten men so that the bicep boasting singer struggled to retrieve his hand back. It was enough to make you wonder if Haddaway, who claimed he was “sweating like a f**king horse,” was emitting some kind of love drug through the power of perspiration.
In person, Haddaway radiates a charm, physique and sprightliness that belies his age, the fact that he has been on a world tour since May which finishes in August, and the fact he releases his tenth album in September. We left the singer to his cup of tea with a few chilenismos and Spanish phrases to win the weekend crowds over, although he seemed hesitant to use "busco polola" (I'm looking for a girlfriend) after a sufficient groping on opening night.
When asked whether "What Is Love" is based on a personal break up, the singer admitted that it is based on a broken heart, but for every broken heart he has suffered, he has broken 20 more. His trip to Chile comes on a whim after a number of shows in Brazil, and as yet he has no plans to return and cause further heartache in Santiago.