Miguel played the parts of self-help guru, adult film star and musical visionary at the Midland theater on Sunday. Rather than seeming incongruous, Miguel’s multiple personas shaped a complex, risky and nearly faultless concert.
An audience of more than 1,000 witnessed the spectacular show.
Perhaps not since the height of Prince’s purple reign in the 1980s has a musician so skillfully merged rock and R&B.
Born Miguel Jontel Pimentel in 1985, the artist has released three albums since 2010. Unlike his first two efforts, the new album “Wildheart” captures much of the brilliance that Miguel and a five-piece backing band displayed at the Midland.
In one of several monologues, Miguel spoke of his upbringing in “the hood” in Southern California.
“I’m of mixed descent — my father is Latino and my mother is black,” he said.
Noting that he was obligated to check the “other” box on school forms to indicate his heritage, Miguel added that “now I realize that every single person is ‘other.’”
In addition to baring his heart on confessional material like “What’s Normal Anyway” while imploring fans to “dream big” and “curate their reality,” Miguel took daring musical gambles. Renditions of only a few songs were faithful to their recorded versions.
The sultry 2013 soul ballad “How Many Drinks?” was transformed into a power-pop number. The repugnant 2011 dance hit “Quickie” was given a muscular rock treatment. “Adorn,” a gorgeous composition that won a Grammy Award for best R&B song in 2013, was also stretched and twisted into unlikely configurations.
Occasionally stopping and restarting his band with the flick of a wrist mid-song, Miguel demonstrated an authoritative style as a bandleader that recalled James Brown. He resembled “Born in the U.S.A.”-era Bruce Springsteen on majestic material like “Face the Sun.”
Unlike Miguel, Springsteen never looked as if he belonged on the cover of a weightlifting magazine. For many fans, Miguel’s exposed abdominal muscles were the real stars of the show. His suggestive hip swivels and tugs at his low-slung pants during sexually explicit songs like “The Valley” incited pandemonium.
He wanted to crowd surf to the back of the venue but didn’t make it more than 10 feet before repeatedly sinking to the floor. The effort failed partly because fans near the stage refused to put their phones away.
Miguel’s photogenic appearance may have foiled his attempts to interact with the audience at the Midland, but his bold musical exploits couldn’t have been more transcendent.