“Vicente Fernandez is still the king”
By Benjamin Ortiz, Special to the
Chicago Tribune
Date: October 20, 2009

Adorned in an immaculate, black and gold-trimmed Mexican-cowboy charro suit and sporting a pistol in a silver-studded holster, 69-year-old Vicente Fernandez strutted regally and struck robust mariachi poses across the Allstate Arena stage on Sunday, taking a seat only for a few songs to quench his thirst between evocative renditions from his storied repertoire. By the time Fernandez closed with his 1976 hit “Volver, Volver,” the master ranchera singer known as “El ídolo de México” (The Idol of Mexico) and “El Rey” (The King) had been belting out hits from his 50-plus records for three solid hours.
The epic performance paralleled his tremolo tenor that sustained notes and held the audience in an emotional spell that moved things poignantly to a conclusion. Ranging from the ghetto-fabulous cowgirl to alterna-ranchero homeboy in tight denim and Stetson, the audience kicked off every song with eardrum-shredding gritos, countrified, stylized howls that sound like gloriously tearful weeping.
Backed by 10 mariachis on strings and horns in creamy-orange charro suits and wide-brimmed sombreros, Fernandez masterfully worked the crowd, opening with his trademark comment that so long as the audience kept applauding then he would keep on singing. True to his word, he shared his intense stage presence generously, calling Chicago “mi casa” and the audience “mi familia.”
Rendering such sentimentally expressive hits as “Por Tu Maldito Amor” and “El Rey” with minimal movement, Fernandez conjured ghosts of the heart and soul in the air with his hands, punctuating lyrics about heartache in the typical Mexican style of idealized manly mores. Raising an eyebrow or straightening his posture with panache, he delicately phrased each note to rise and fall with brio.
As older fans swayed and sang along lovingly, young girls screamed for the elder statesman of Mexican country music, who kept plugging his ears with both hands as a way to block and provoke the shrieks. Several standing ovations broke into chants of yet another of his nicknames, “Chente,” as Fernandez took a tattered Mexican flag from the audience and draped it over his shoulders to sing “Mexico Lindo y Querido,” a tribute to all the paisanos (fellow countrymen) who are forging greater Mexico in the Midwest.

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