Every detail of Bad Bunny’s P FKN R event felt cultivated specifically for his most loyal fans, and what wasn’t perfectly planned stands as a testament to their dedication. Anyone willing to withstand a three to five-hour wait just to get inside is, very likely, among the Puerto Rican star’s most dedicated followers.
Ticket-holders under and leading into the entry tent — the only entrance into the event at the hallowed Hiram Bithorn Stadium — clamored for water. There was no access to bathrooms; you couldn’t leave the line if you wanted to anyway. Medical attention was given to some who fainted; bodies that physically could not handle the horrid combination of heat, humidity and the seemingly endless wait.
It was likely this serious logistical issue that significantly delayed the start of the show, which was slated for an 8:30PM or so kickoff, until nearly midnight.
It was also a frustrating delay for anyone already inside, especially those who arrived early afternoon and had long since secured their best-possible spot on the arena floor and now couldn’t abandon it without fear of losing it to one of the other 24,999 people with floor tickets. But how could Bad Bunny take the stage when thousands were still waiting to get inside? And more frustrating, surely, was the waiting outside. Probably a lot of friendships and relationships were either bonded by this struggle or completely ripped apart by the bickering that intolerable situations beget.
What lie in store for those who were fortunate enough to enjoy it, though, was a superb playground for any Bad Bunny lover. Inside the museum everyone was shepherded into upon entry were two giant inflatables: one an air-filled, astoundingly hyperrealistic model of his face, the other more in keeping with the Sergio Vazquez-made artwork of X100PRE, Bad Bunny’s groundbreaking 2018 debut LP, cartoon-like with his tongue as a slide down which folks could swoosh through and bounce out.
Giant printouts of magazine covers decorated top of a parade of memorable fashions worn in music videos and major industry events, including the flamboyantly flowery suit, its lapels elaborately decorated, that fascinated both Spanish and English-language media at the 2018 American Music Awards red carpet and also worn in the “Chambea” video. His abundant trophies were on display too, from MTV Moonmen to Premio Lo Nuestro Awards. A meticulous recreation of the room featured in all the YHLQMDLG music videos and a Bugatti — it couldn’t possibly be his actual vehicle, right? — were also among the myriad attractions.
Moving into the outdoor grounds, Bunny-branded freebies and buy-something-get-a-thing souvenirs were all over. The vast majority of the food trucks were local, from the pizza to the tripletas to the paletas in the signature bunny shape, Benito’s own face, the YHLQMDLG skull, and the freight truck around which his El Último Tour del Mundo artwork is centered. Two stalwart local artists, Ismo and David Zayas, created art live on canvasses inside the Corona-sponsored area, and the DJ inside the Liberty tent was Payola Isabel, another hometown culture creator.
All this was intended to, and wholly succeeded in, feeling like a major festival. But did the people who weren’t able to enter until late-night get to see any of this? Likely they rushed right to their seats, restless and ready to find a spot from which to watch their fave finally perform.
Until Friday’s show, it had been two years since Bad Bunny’s last hometown concert, or any proper concert at all. Covid-19, of course, is the culprit for this forced separation of artist and fanbase. So despite the trials that preceded its start, Benito’s appearance onstage, finally, was welcomed with a roar from some 50,000 people inside the stadium.
When the lights ultimately switched to concert mode, a video celebrating Puerto Rican heritage, history, political movements, memorable moments in sports and entertainment and the land’s beauty itself played to prideful cheers on two giant screens flanking the stage. At first this felt like a Puerto Rico Tourism Company ad — which could have been possible, since the entity was also set up on the festival-style grounds via its internal tourism arm, Voy Turisteando.
It turned out, however, that the voice narrating the two-and-a-half-minute intro was that of Benicio Del Toro, who closed out the clip by saying, basically, that there’s nothing better than to be able to say he’s from P Fucking R.
Transcendent purple and blue hues grew onstage as ominous tones crescendoed; Bad Bunny then appeared. He launched into “25/8” from last year’s YHLQMDLG: a completely unpredictable selection, yet an incredibly appropriate one, the lyrics of which serve to remind us all of his unstoppable creative output, and in witty analogies and Movimiento-referencing metaphors he summarizes how incredibly great he is (in case you hadn’t noticed) yet that he remains, despite the fame, the same guy he’s always been.
The song is a declaration of his commitment to Puerto Rico, too, in a sense. He condemns the government’s tragedy-exacerbating Hurricane María response and qualifies himself in the context of the island’s streets. Lauded widely as unabashedly future-forward dresser, Bad Bunny cites in “25/8” his liberating effect on fashion—which was visible quite clearly Friday night in the array of attendee outfits, many shucking arbitrary societal norms in terms of gendered clothing and beauty standards and whatever else might hold someone back from wearing what they actually want to wear.
In performance he continued this boundary-pushing: After a perreo-qualifying hits, a major chunk of the concert was backed by a live band. Cuts from the El Último Tour del Mundo felt even more rock than they do on record. “Yo Visto Así” and “Maldita Probreza” got folks jumping, pogoing — during which you can’t do a lot of twerking. He gradually brought in more of this vibe, his leather (okay, maybe vegan leather?) pant, black mesh top, and black armband, all of this tightly fitted, already evoking early 2000s alt-rock. Renditions of other songs, like “Te Deseo lo Mejor,” felt were purposely slowed down and drawn out at key moments, emphasizing the live instrumentation and singalong participation, and the onstage players typically closed out these numbers with a leisurely kind of grandiosity via ringing riffs and echoing drum rolls.
Here Bad Bunny was, again, blending together elements that someone will tell you don’t belong together. Throughout his musical career he’s done this, like the Spanish-language trap he churned out boldly, and with total confidence, well before fame came or the trend exploded among Latinx artists.
From the heights of the Hiram Bithorn stadium, and from everywhere but the front of the arena floor, Bad Bunny was a tiny speck on a long, faraway stage. At his 2019 concerts at San Juan’s El Choli, Puerto Rico’s biggest indoor venue, a cross-shaped stage was constructed on the floor, allowing for fans to be in closer proximity to him, depending on where he stood. This time, there was nowhere to go but left and right with the entirety of the crowd faced forward—save for when he rode a truck like the one pictured on the Último Tour del Mundo a couple hundred feet through an established partition of the crowd and performed for a while from its top, inside a stage replete with pyrotechnics.
More screens and more diversity of visuals (if you weren’t up close, you did not see the backup dancers at all, really) could have been added to compensate for this. But already $10 million was invested in this concert. At first it seemed they’d thought of everything, but in reality, that’s just not impossible.
Cameos ran the gamut of Bad Bunny’s collaborators and buddies: J Balvin, Myke Towers, Jhay Cortez, Abra (the Assassination Nation actress and prolific musical artist who sings on “Sorry Papi,” and deserves far more credit than she gets), Nengo Flow, Arcángel, Jowell y Randy, Romeo, Nio García, and Mora all guested.
There were some hitches, however, throughout the performance on this first night of P Fkn R. Greats like Santana and Whitney Houston and Rihanna have performed at Hiram Bithorn, but it’s been almost a decade since the baseball park, built in the ‘60s, was last converted for mega-volume concert use. It is used often for sporting events, particularly Puerto Rico’s pro baseball league. But could the screen glitches — there was even a small fire atop the left-side one, which was seemingly left to fade out on its own, with no water rescue — and repeated sound stalls be related to its disuse in this form? Or was the whole thing just too ambitious?
There were moments during which Bad Bunny showed frustration in his face, but these expressions were fleeting, dissolving quickly and shifting into smiles of pride, of gratitude. He spoke the latter out loud often: His fans, for him, are everything.
By the time Bad Bunny and company closed with “Safaera,” the X100PRE reggaeton tribute-in-medley so epic that it will one day probably get its own tribute, it was after 2AM. But by 2:45AM, he was performing yet again, now at El Choli, where fans were attending a live screening of the concert. He surprised a crowd of thousands there, arriving seemingly immediately after wrapping up at Hiram Bithorn, as if he’d teleported from place to place. But there was an approximate 10-minute delay on the livestream: now, in hindsight, that seems not so much a technical error but like the reveal of how a magic trick worked.
For so many reasons, the first night of Bad Bunny’s P Fkn R show will go down in Puerto Rican history. Some of those memorable moments are incredibly great—others likely left folks physically and emotionally sore. Here’s hoping the logistics improve so that the former impact reigns at Saturday’s second round.