Out-and-proud Ricky Martin heading to New Zealand
It was rain, not women's underwear, that pelted the stage the previous time Ricky Martin came to visit.
The sexy Puerto Rican pop star attracted a legion of female fans when he performed in Auckland at the turn of the century. That fateful weekend at the then-Ericsson Stadium, some 20,000 fans waited 24 hours for their idol, thanks to issues with his production crew not being able to build a stage shelter in time.
This time, not only do we have a new stadium, Vector Arena, but we also have a new out-and-proud Martin.
With more than 70 million album sales under his belt and a 30-year-strong career, the 42-year-old has been open about his sexuality since coming out in 2010.
But it's a banned topic when speaking with New Zealand media. As are other areas of his private life, if he doesn't bring them up first.
Today's celebrities are speaking less and less about themselves, with the likes of Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Pink and Beyonce limiting interviews and opting to open up to fans on social media.
Fairfax Australia recently had interviews with Eminem and John Mayer withdrawn after challenging imposed limitations on certain topics.
Ricky Martin doesn't appear to fit this bill.
He's constantly allowing his 6-year-old twin sons Matteo and Valentino to be photographed in public and he recently spoke out in support of gay Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe.
"I'll say it now, and I've said it on many occasions. There are millions of little boys and girls around the world struggling with their sexual identity," Martin said recently. "To have someone as powerful as him, and as successful as [Thorpe] saying: ‘It's OK to be who you who you are, and be happy.' Kudos, Ian, I'm very proud of you."
That was obviously enough comment on that topic, Martin's people telling the Sunday Star-Times there were to be no questions on that topic.
But when the opportunity arose, Martin was obliging.
"Hah he ha," he paused to find words. "Ah, um, ah . . . there's nothing wrong with people's sexuality. It really shouldn't be an issue, but you know, maybe people are interested. But are the media writing about sexuality because the audience wants to know about it or vice versa?
"It shouldn't be an issue. Music is the most important thing. I think that the audience will read it if it's there, but at the end of the day they just want to have a good time when they go to a concert."
While Martin has changed since his previous visit here, his music certainly hasn't.
His latest single, Vida, has that Latino, upbeat, party-on-the-beach sound.
He's been hoping the song would take off like 1998 hit The Cup of Life.
The catchy tune with the lyrics "here we go! Ole, ole, ole" cemented itself as the anthem for the Fifa World Cup tournament in France. For Vida, Martin was approached by the international football organisation to create another hit.
"It was so beautiful what happened with The Cup of Life, I said let's do something different," Martin explained. "Let's bring the audience into this project. I want the audience to write the song for the world cup."
A social media campaign was established and 1600 songs poured in, with Vida picked as the best description of the "spirit of the world cup".
It's no Cup of Life, but it was a cool idea.
"It's charting in many countries and getting lots views on Youtube," Martin said.
Over the phone, Martin is every bit as warm and charming as he is as a judge in Australian TV competition The Voice.
He jumps right in and poses the first question.
"Where are you at the moment? Auckland? I can't wait to go back. New Zealand could be like a lucky charm for me in a world tour which will hopefully go for a year and a half. It will set the atmosphere."
He remembers his previous tour here vividly; it's where he made his first skydive and he hopes to add to his adventures.
"I hopefully will take some time to wear the tourist hat."
And like the rest of the world, he cannot get enough of our own Ella Yelich-O'Conner.
"Oh my god, Lorde! Now you've got me climbing up the walls here.
"That amazingly talented women that is doing so much for New Zealand music around the world. It would be an honour to ever work with her, definitely."
- Sunday Star Times