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Alejandro Sanz in Rosemont (English)

It's hard to imagine a more unassuming star than Spain's Alejandro Sanz. Though he's sold millions of discs worldwide and racked up dozens of Latin Grammys, regular Grammys and other industry honors, he remains resolutely down to earth.

That certainly was the vibe Saturday when he and his versatile band performed at the Rosemont Theatre for an adoring crowd. As the lights went up, Sanz immediately appeared centerstage, without the usual prolonged intro or band vamping. Dressed in jeans, a light jacket, a T-shirt and old-school sneakers (which looked like classic Adidas), he also sported a close-cropped hairstyle (he shaved his head to support Spain's beloved La Roja in its pursuit of the World Cup).

A freshly shorn Alejandro Sanz performs Saturday at the Rosemont Theatre.
(Oscar Lopez/For the Sun-Times)

And how many stars would willingingly go bald (OK, other than Britney Spears in a manic phase)? Or would conduct a quien es el m1/8¡s guapo applaud-a-thon, as Sanz did Saturday, when he pitted his pianist vs. his rhythm guitarist (both que bueno, as Sanz is himself, of course). If Disney ever wants to cast "The Superstar Wore Tennis Shoes," Sanz would be their man.

Maybe his average Joe persona helps to explains why Sanz has yet to match the success (in the States, at least) of fellow Latin megastars Juanes and Shakira. In terms of creativity, he's every bit their equal. As a musician, Sanz definitely surpasses them. While leading his nine-member band in a rousing two-hour show, Sanz soloed on guitar (acoustic and electric) and keyboards. Most important, he conducted the performance as a totally collaborative effort. While some superstars put on shows that are all about themselves, Sanz believes in the beauty of teamwork.

His latest disc, "Paraiso Express" (2009), returns to the ballad-heavy style of his earlier hits "Mas" (1997) and "El Alma al Aire" (2000), after the more experimental "No Es Lo Mismo" (2004) and "El Tren de los Momentos" (2006). In concert, the "Paraiso" songs (many co-written with master producer Tommy Torres) revealed new complexities and reflected the artistic development that Sanz's flamenco pop has undergone in the crucible of "El Tren" and "Lo Es No Mismo." At 41, Sanz performs as if he still has creative goals to conquer.

Though the crowd seemed happiest when he played favorites like "Viviendo Deprisa" or "Corazon Partio" (which was spiced up with a clave beat), he sounded most inspired on newer tunes like "Nuestro Amor Sera Leyenda" and "Lola Soledad" (both from "Paraiso"), where his characteristically raspy yet always energetic voice was the most soulful.

For the encores, Sanz did a solo turn at the piano for a beautifully introspective set capped off by "Lo Ves?" and "Tu No Tienes La Culpa." Then his band returned for a full-tilt medley, which ended with Sanz shyly executing flamenco steps, complete with traditional palmas (hand claps). What becomes a legend most? A sense of true showmanship balanced by a low-key and unpretentious spirit. That's the power of Alejandro Sanz.

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